Long lazy days by the pool, endless twilight, and family beach vacations.
That’s what summer means for most families with kids, from toddlers through teenagers.
But if your teenager struggles with a mental health or substance use disorder, then summer break might mean something completely different. It may mean practical opportunity to get your teenager into residential treatment.
Your teen may have fallen into negative behavior patterns this year at school. They may have started experimenting with alcohol or drugs. They may have a developed a mood disorder or had some sort of mental health condition before the year that got worse over the course of the year.
Whatever the case, summer can be the perfect window to get them professional treatment. That way they can get back on track and start the next school year off feeling strong, healthy, and confident.
Five Good Reasons to Start Treatment Over Summer Break
- Time. Any other time of the year, with the possible exception of the winter holidays, treatment would likely feel rushed and disruptive. Since the ideal length of most residential treatment is around thirty days, a treatment program in summer can be planned so your teen has time before and after treatment to do typical teen summer things.
- School. School is out, so your teen will be on break. Treatment won’t disrupt their academic schedule. If their year went poorly because of substance use or emotional/psychological issues, this is a perfect time to reset and ensure next year goes better.
- Supervision. Unsupervised downtime is when troubled teens tend to get into more trouble. Teens with substance use disorders look forward to time out of school, so they can hang out with substance-using peers. Teens with emotional disorders may isolate, go deeper into depression, or feed anxieties that began during the school year.
- Triggers and patterns. During treatment, therapists spend a lot of time helping teens identify triggers, i.e. external stimuli that lead to drug use or an increase in mental health symptoms. They also help teens recognize non-productive patterns of behavior. Then, they help them develop positive coping strategies to handle the triggers and replace non-productive patterns with productive ones. Treatment over the summer can help teens build and practice these skills before returning to school in the fall.
- Quality Family Time. If you plan well, you may get your teen back in time for a family vacation or a couple of weeks at home for a much-needed staycation. That might be the greatest gift possible. Imagine this: your troubled teen home two or three weeks before school starts, ready to face the world equipped with a new set of psychological and emotional skills to manage the symptoms of their substance use or mental health disorder. That would be worth the entire process.
The Summer Reset
Substance use and mental health disorders can fly under the radar or exist in that dangerous space known as denial. Parents and teens alike might know there’s a problem, but put off addressing it because of work, school, or reasons specific to them. The fact is, though, the sooner you get your teen into treatment, the better. And summer presents the perfect window to take that critical step and restore balance to your family.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.