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Ask a TFI Expert: Hollie Sobel on kids and summer vacation

School's Out for Summer - Tablet ComputerWith summer vacation in full swing, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

Today, Family Institute staff therapist Hollie Sobel, PhD, provides a few insights on making summer vacation less stressful and more productive.

Keep your child social

During the summer, children do not have the school setting to keep them social, and lose access to their social contact. Without this contact, children with social anxiety or poorly developed social skills can experience feelings of isolation during the summer.

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 or she will lose their social status if they are not present at an event. This anxiety is present even their text messages (FOMO = fear of missing out).

Balance is the key, and parents have the opportunity to instill time management lessons.

Let your child have a break

Time off from school during the summer gives children the opportunity to take a break from the stresses related to the demands of school.

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

Plan ahead

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

Balance Structure and Freedom. Maintain a bedtime/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 playdates 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, create stations where children 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.

Most importantly, use the summer 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 appointment, 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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