Are School Breaks Turning Into Breakdowns?

Does your family seem to fall apart during the summer and other, shorter school breaks? Is a lack of structure creating problems with boundaries? Are your children reluctant to attend camps, experiencing social issues, at each other’s throats or engaging in too much media time? Have family outings and vacations turned disastrous? Are you struggling to balance playtime with a structured schedule? Is it difficult to get anyone – even yourself – to stick to a productive routine? When school’s not in session, does it feel like chaos rules your home?

School breaks are tough. Without proper planning and the right tools and approach, days can feel unbalanced, overwhelming and even miserable. Kids tend to sleep in, eat more junk food and play more video games. And, while it’s common to feel that your kids need a break from structure, too much free time can get everyone off track and breaks can turn into breakdowns.

School Breaks Are a Common Struggle

What you’re seeing in your home is extremely common. Struggling with school breaks is a function of having a family. Everyone goes through it. When we lose the container that school provides for our children – and ourselves – it’s challenging to sync into a new rhythm and stick to a healthy schedule.

Plan. Strategize. Get Some Guidance.

While there is no “diagnosis” for what’s occurring in your home over school breaks, working with a therapist – if only for a few sessions – can alleviate a tremendous amount of stress and make for much happier breaks from school.

Your BPS therapist can help you develop the structure that is right for your family. As part of the counseling for school break issues process, you’ll receive guidance on how to plan activities and routines for the time off. And, you’ll learn strategies to help you handle the conflicts that oftentimes arise when everyone is home for extended time periods.

With just a little help, you can figure out how to balance play and productive time, set and maintain appropriate boundaries and develop realistic family goals. You can also get tips and tools to help alleviate the instant gratification behaviors that most children gravitate toward during transitions to new routines. School breaks don’t have to feel highly stressed and like a constant uphill battle. Rather, your therapist can help you translate broad ideas into specifics, balance the needs of all your family members and create a positive and productive rhythm and routine.

But you still may have questions or concerns…

This is their summer/school break. Their lives are over-structured as-is. Why should I impose a structure onto this “free” time?

We certainly over-busy our children. But, letting their lives become deregulated when they lose the external structure that school provides can become problematic for everyone. As parents, it’s our job to hold a structure for our children until they’re old enough to do it for themselves – and that includes break time.

Your children’s summer or winter breaks don’t need to be overly structured, but everyone will likely be a lot happier if some kind of structure is in place. With help, you can create a different kind of routine. There are things that you can do during breaks that are difficult to do during other times of the year. Your therapist can help you organize breaks in a way that offers your children – and you and your partner – balance and makes breaks more fun and exciting and a whole lot less stressful.

I think that I could use a little help, but we’re just too busy to meet with a therapist this time of year.

Children being home more often certainly adds another element of busy to our already too busy lives. The great thing about meeting with a therapist is that it’s likely going to save you a lot of time in the end. Even just a few sessions can give you strategies that will be extremely helpful in resolving issues that could take days to otherwise – or go on all break. Oftentimes, having a few more tools and tips can save you a tremendous amount of time – and a headache.

It’s also a really good idea to start thinking about breaks and making plans – especially for summer – a few months ahead of time. Your BPS therapist can provide you with ideas and resources before breaks begin. Having a routine in place before big breaks can make a major difference in how your family functions during those times.

We need help, but I’m not sure that we can afford or justify the expense of therapy for this issue.

Chances are, with a little help, you can get your family back on track pretty quickly. This kind of therapy generally offers a lot of reward for little investment. In just a few sessions, your BPS therapist can help you get a structure in place and fine-tune your game plan. Working with an expert can make the process much quicker and more efficient. Making this small commitment to your family can be a very valuable investment. Imagine everyone in your home feeling and functioning better during extended breaks from school and ask yourself what that’s worth.

To increase the likelihood of a good fit, BPS offers an online therapist directory which will help you to determine what your family’s specific issues are and to ensure a good match between you, your child or children, and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.

Check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your family with a therapist who has expertise working with children and families.

dan-foxBPS therapist Dan Fox, LPC helped create the content for this page. Dan is a licensed professional counselor who has been working with children and their families since 2002. Dan’s diverse, child-focused background also includes teaching high school, running a summer camp, school counseling and serving as director of September High School.