Today I was thinking about how important it is for our mental health in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere to have experienced that “summer holiday feeling”. I am thinking particularly of the youth I know who normally get a complete break in the summer from the demands and worries of school, even when they have a summer job.

Can’t you that feeling of having no homework for 10 weeks when you were in high school? I particularly remember that, even though I always had a summer job, I always had a holiday with my paternal aunt in Renfrew and a maternal great aunt near Mount St. Patrick on “the farm”. You could really be bored in either of those places, and boredom can be very instructive for a young mind. When I wanted something to do, there was always some harvesting or canning to be completed, always with two of the kindest women I have ever known.

This is something for all parents to remember this summer, if their children are longing to do something different, when no work might be available. Perhaps there is an aunt or a grandparent or a family friend they can visit. There is a strong evidence that intergenerational relationships are of benefit psychologically and a short visit can provide a perfect break. This is an interesting article on families from The Atlantic, with great references on many other topics related to family. Many of these are a reminder of the richness provided by other adults in the life of a younger person. The opposite is also true, relationships with those much younger are good for every adult.

For families who cannot manage to have their children visit someone, the benefits of summer can be had in those activities we don’t normally think about except when we have a break from work. Think of picnics and camping and late night movies, especially if they include a little foolishness. Give everyone paper for sketching and watch what horrors emerge when adults try to draw. Eat dinner backwards: dessert first, meal in the middle, appetizer last – and find an appetizer, even if it’s only a special salad or (horrors) salty snacks with fancy drinks.

I just have to say more about picnics. I cannot get over how much everyone loves picnics. When my children were young, there was nothing that they enjoyed more than picnics ANYWHERE. It was so much fun to plan a picnic on a rainy day, but it made everyone laugh, because it was easy to forget how silly your mother could be. In my practice, I recommend picnics and I am always amazed that many people require instructions. This is a great article about planning a perfect picnic.

This is a summer when we will need a COVID Summer Holiday Guide for Families, lest we all get lost in more physical but unsocial isolation. The evidence tells us that we all need the fun, the excitement and the boredom that summer holidays can bring, and youth need it more than ever.

(This is a picture of Constant Creek near Mount St. Patrick. There were buildings like this on “the farm”.)

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