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Emotional Health

How Moms and Dads Cope With Summer Vacation

Take Care of Yourself, It’s Okay

Summer is heating up, and so are the pressures on parents to care for their kids and keep them engaged. For some, these pressures can lead to the unintended consequences of more stress and more anxiety. It’s a pattern that can spiral downward and lead to a less pleasant summer for kids and parents alike.

“Parents can feel pressure to fully plan their child's schedule with activities over the summer, and this pressure can lead to anxiety,” says Inger Burnett-Zeigler, PhD, a Northwestern Medical Group psychologist. “A stressed and anxious parent is less able to engage with their child in a positive way.”

So, relax a bit. Smell the roses — literally.

Be Intentional

Try to figure out how you can work in time for yourself every day. Take a few minutes to identify activities or things you enjoy. Think about when and how you can make “me time.”

No matter what your individual circumstances are, there can be an urge to focus conversation on the kids. Equally important, however, is the conversation around, “How am I feeling? How am I taking care of myself?”

It could be a long bath with a good book after the kids have gone to bed. It could be a few minutes to relax and reconnect with your partner or a friend. Consider volunteer work. Take a walk during your lunch break. Go for a bike ride. Have a glass of wine (just don’t overindulge).

Even just a few minutes of “me time” a few times a week can make all the difference. Apps like Toggl and ATracker can help you determine where you are spending the most time and where you might reclaim some of it.

Do You Really Have To?

Worrying about the well-being of your child often descends into worrying about getting everything done — taking care of the kids; meeting work, social and volunteer obligations; pulling your own weight in partnerships; keeping up with cleaning, laundry, yard work; and more.

Ask yourself, “Do I really have to do all of these things?”

It’s okay to enlist the help of others — be it a cleaning service once a week for bathrooms and mopping, or a friend or relative to watch the kids for a few hours while you go for a haircut or out on a date.

Do What You Love

“Make sure to carve out time to do something that brings you joy,” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler. “I really try and underscore that it can be something so small — a walk at lunch, an hour in the evening for a cup of coffee, a manicure-pedicure.”

Whatever it is, it doesn't have to be time-consuming or expensive. Take care of yourself with something you want to do, and do it without shame.

“Not only is it okay, it's good for you and the people that you're taking care of to take care of yourself in this way,” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler. “Your health, your mental well-being is important too.”

Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler, PhD
Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler, PhD
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Associate Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Primary Specialty Psychology
Does Not Schedule or Accept New Patients
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