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For some kids, problems can emerge during summer break
How parents can spot potential behavioral problems in their children

Date published: 7/8/2007

SUMMERTIME, and the living is easy. Most kids count the hours until that final bell rings and school is over for the year. My 11-year-old wrote one word on her calendar across that final day: sweet.

But things don't always go as planned. For some families, summer may not be so sweet, or easy. I am a parent of three, and by August I am typically struggling to keep my kids occupied. By then, I am the one writing on my calendar across the first day of school: sweet.

Despite our best efforts, many school-age kids have too much time on their hands, and they struggle to manage it well. My mother, a teacher, always asks her students to report what they did for the summer. They typically have a one-sentence response: I watched videos. I played on the Internet. I slept.

In my psychotherapy practice, September brings a number of kids who have had a summer gone awry. Some kids struggle with feelings of loneliness, or a loss of direction. Without direct supervision, others can't resist the temptation to act out.

How can parents spot potential problems before they grow into the more severe issues like social anxiety, oppositional defiance, or depression?

Potential problems

Here's some insight into problems that can emerge, or worsen, during the summer break.

Social anxiety: Most adolescents struggle with some degree of social anxiety. As hormonal changes prompt physical changes, kids become very self-conscious. Its normal for them to want to feel included by kids their own age.

During the academic year this may not be very difficult. The structure of the classroom offers even very shy kids a great opportunity to get to know one another. Many times during the day, they sit inches from their peers and are encouraged to discuss a variety of topics. The teachers make sure everyone knows one another by name.

But summertime can present different social challenges. Sometimes adolescents haven't learned how to approach someone they don't know, how to make small talk, or how to introduce themselves to an individual or a group. Bashful teens may not even try.


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Dr. Delise Dickard, a licensed professional counselor, is the director of Riverside Counseling in Fredericksburg.