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Stressed about summer break? Let us help.

Shawna Johnson, LCSW
Social Worker, Adoption Support and Preservation

While your child(ren) might be excited for summer break, as parents it might be a hectic time – and you might not be looking forward to the difficult break from school.

First, we want you to know you are not alone in this feeling. In 2019, one study showed that about 70 percent of parents were “stressed about summer break” (New York Post, 2019).

School provides children and families with predictable routine, structure, and socialization. Children just adjusted to all of the changes in school with the COVID-19 pandemic, and now it is time for another change in routine.

As we know, changes in routine can cause an increase in behaviors and stress, for both children and adults.

What can you do to make summer more manageable?

Here are some recommendations:

Stick to a routine. Children need structure in their lives, otherwise the day feels out of control for them (and you!). Just like during the school year, have a schedule to the day. This includes wake up and bedtime, meals and snacks, play time, and other activities. It is also helpful to have a visual schedule hung up in the home. Depending on your child’s developmental age, this can be a picture schedule. Having this schedule allows for predictability and the child will feel more in control of their day. Therefore, they will be more cooperative.


Plan ahead! Summer can feel never ending and coming up with ideas on the spot when your child is bored can be difficult. Work with your child to come up with a summer “bucket list” full of ideas that they would like to do.

  • This can be at-home activities, such as going on scavenger hunts, having a family movie or game night, or cooking a new meal together.
  • You can also include activities that your family is comfortable with doing (following COVID-19 safety precautions) outside the home, such as going to a museum, checking out books at the library, or other community activities.
  • Once you have a list of ideas, make a calendar with the activities! This way you and your child know, on Monday we are going to go for a hike and on Saturday we will go to the Children’s Museum. Having planned activities also allows for structure.

Check out your local park district and nature preserve for other fun activities to do together!

When in doubt, be playful! Children are born to play. As adults, we often forget how to play. Reconnect with your inner child this summer and have fun! Playtime can be a great time to connect and build your attachment with your child. Find some joy in this stressful time.

Don’t forget to manage your own stress and take care of yourself. Find time for self-care this summer. You are important! This will help you to be able to stay regulated when your child is not. You know what they say, “You cannot pour from an empty glass.”

Be prepared for some tough times. Even if you plan ahead and stick to a routine, you will still have difficult days with your child. This is when you pull from your parenting tool box to manage those behaviors. Give yourself, and your child, grace during this break. Each day is another opportunity.

Be safe. Finally we want to remind you to continue to be diligent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, this will be over soon!

  • Follow safety guidelines and stay healthy.
  • Continue to talk to your children about the importance of wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing.
  • Remind your teenager to wear their mask when they are with their friends and help your young child wash their hands when they get home.
  • Although a lot of people are feeling fatigued from the pandemic, it is important to keep doing our part.

If you need help finding summer activities or have questions about any of these recommendations, your Adoption Support and Preservation worker will gladly assist you.

ADOPTION SUPPORT & PRESERVATION provides home-based intervention to families formed through adoption or subsidized guardianship. Counseling, crisis intervention and 24-hour on-call assistance help address adjustment, grief/loss resolution, attachment, educational and emotional issues.

This DCFS-supported program also provides therapeutic respite services, psycho-educational and support groups, workshops, and help securing resources.