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Ask A TFI Expert: Hollie Sobel on Balancing Your Kids’ Summer Vacations

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This July, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

To get us started, Family Institute staff therapist Hollie Sobel, PhD provides some insights on handling summer vacation in ways that are less stressful and more productive.

Kids need breaks, too.

Some parents require that their children spend a significant amount of their summer vacations working on academic tasks.

However, time off from school during the summer gives children the opportunity to take a break from the stresses that can be related to the demands of school.

While kids need structure to their days, and often have homework to complete over the summer, it’s important to not overdo it or be too rigid. Instead, summer vacation provides parents with the opportunity to teach time management and organizational skills to their children. It’s important to have a balance of work and play time.


A break from school means a break from socializing, whether welcomed or unwelcomed.

Over summer vacation, children lose access to the social contact that is inherent in the school setting.

Without this contact, children with poorly developed social skills or social anxiety can experience feelings of isolation during vacation.

For the socially active child, time off of school can lead to stress if he or she does not attend every possible social activity.  This child may fear that he of she will lose their social status if they are not present at an event.

In both of these cases, balance is the key, and parents have the opportunity to instill time management lessons.


Be prepared and think ahead.

Consider the following tips when planning for your child’s summer vacation:

  • Balance Structure and Freedom: Maintain a structure that includes a bed-time/curfew and a wake-time, but don’t be too rigid. Studies show that keeping your bed and waking times within one to two hours of your daily routine during breaks shouldn’t interfere with your regular schedule.
  • Plan Ahead: Parents’ schedules are important, and often not as flexible. Remember to plan play dates ahead of time, work with other parents and/or family members to plan outings, and coordinate vacation time with spouses or other caretakers. Planning ahead can make the summer run more smoothly and reduce stress.
  • Recognize Teachable Moments: Take the time off as an opportunity to teach your kids time management, organizational and independence skills. For example, parents with young children can create stations in their homes where their kids can draw for a portion of their time, play with blocks for another portion, and so on, teaching them to move from one activity to another without requiring continuous monitoring by a parent.
  • Balance Family and Friends: Encourage less social children to reach out to peers and get out of the house. Look for activities that might suit them, or help them send texts or call friends to initiate plans. For overly social children, try to ease the anxiety that can come with trying to fill every moment with a social activity by encouraging moderation and balance.
  • Develop Traditions and Rituals: Having traditions and rituals help build family cohesion. Research shows that high levels of family cohesion and support are related to good coping skills. Use spring break to build meaningful, memorable moments with your kids.


Dr. Hollie Sobel provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy.  Dr. Sobel has specialization in using researched-based cognitive-behavioral techniques with children and adolescents to improve mood, decrease levels of anxiety, and enhance functioning across home, school and social settings. She includes children/adolescents and parents in the treatment planning process, as family involvement is often important in reaching treatment goals.

To read Dr. Sobel’s full bio or make an appoint, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out more at our website.

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