Kids in the summer

As students step into summer, child and adolescent psychiatrist recommends checking in on their mental health.

This past school year looked different from what families anticipated, with students being pulled out of school unexpectedly — some for the entire school year. Now, with students stepping into summer, many could benefit from a slow-down.

Serafin Lalas, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health, says students have been through a lot of changes, and have needed to adapt quickly. “Children are resilient, and they are capable of bouncing back. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be impacted at all,” Lalas says.

“Many families are tired and at the end of their ropes, making it difficult to learn or teach. The break from school will allow students and parents time to rest and reset for next school year,” he says.

Research shows that childhood trauma is closely associated with long-term physical health issues — especially when unaddressed. “Even if a child isn’t clinically diagnosed with experiencing a trauma, most of our kids have encountered traumatic moments since the early days of the pandemic,” Lalas says.

Setting kids up for success — especially in terms of their mental health — can make a big difference.  

This summer, Lalas recommends slowing down and letting kids be kids. “Encourage your children to spend time outside, exercising and getting fresh air so they can get back to feeling normal,” he says. “Let them do things they enjoy and spend stress-free time together before trying to make up for lost school time.”

Lalas also recommends addressing the larger stressors. “If your student is stressed because they feel as though they fell behind in school, take some time in the summer to build their confidence and catch them up,” he says. “If they’re feeling burnt out, let them spend time reconnecting with the things they enjoyed pre-pandemic. If they’re old enough to be vaccinated and are protected, encourage them to spend time with their friends and classmates in ways they were unable to over the past year.”

Just because kids do bounce back doesn’t mean they are unaffected. If your child was hit especially hard by the changes over the past year, Lalas recommends taking time to talk with them or getting them more professional help. “Your family deserves to be at their best, and parents can use this summer to slow down, heal and have fun.”

Visit our behavioral health services website and learn more about how Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center can help you. Request information on a diagnosis or treatment or any behavioral health concerns, and one of our intake coordinators will contact you.

If you or someone you know is in a life-threatening crisis now, seek help immediately. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.