Teens (13-18) During School Breaks

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Teens (13-18) During School Breaks 

Middle school and high school often have more intense academic expectations, so school breaks are great opportunities to focus on your mental health and rest up.

Respecting Boundaries

Boundaries and respect are very important in providing a foundation of trust between parents and teens. As you are on break without school restrictions, you have more time to dedicate to your hobbies, jobs and friends. Every family has different needs, and boundaries can look different. Take a look at our Boundaries info sheet to learn more about what they are, why they’re important, and how to set them.

Review the Boundaries info sheet and think about what your hard and flexible boundaries are. When you are ready, talk to your parents about them and see how you can work together to respect your boundaries as well as theirs.

This discussion can be a big hurdle but will be worth it in the end. Here are some things you can discuss regarding your boundaries and expectations. You don’t have to cover each thing on the list; this is just to help get the conversations started. It’s important that you explain why your boundary is important to you. For parents, they may be prioritizing your safety, while you may be prioritizing your autonomy and independence.

  • Using the family car — when it can be used, who fills the gas tank, where it can go, etc.
  • Having guests over — who can come over, how long can they stay, logistics around how they’re getting there and getting home, etc.
  • Going out — who is going, when they are going, how long will they be out
  • Space — specifically relating to personal spaces like bedrooms or, in the case that a bedroom is shared, respecting items or areas in the room
  • Personal time — specifically discussing when the best time is for everyone to have their own personal time or time away with friends.
  • Respecting time when at work — outline some acceptable reasons why the other should call while at work. If working from home, discuss respecting space for participating in meetings and getting tasks done.
  • Family time — what are the expectations for watching younger siblings? What are the expectations for spending quality time with family?
  • Autonomy — when out of the house, how often are you expected to check in?

Scheduling Wellness Practices

Since this may be a great time for a brain break, you can focus some of your time on recuperating through resting and wellness activities:

  • Participate in activities you haven’t had time for with school and homework, such as drawing, painting, free writing, fitness, video games, catching up on shows and movies, reading books not assigned, or whatever else you find relaxing and fun!

  • Dedicate time to physical activity that works for you, rather than what you must do at school. There are plenty of free workout videos online for you to try and find something you like. If you're struggling to get motivated, ask some friends to join you! Just remember to ease in and don’t compare yourself to anyone else as you get started. What’s important is that you are getting up and moving.

  • Not into working out, but want to get some movement in? Take a walk. This could be a great way to get some sunlight, too (if the weather permits).
    • You can also make it feel more engaging by listening to an audiobook or podcast!

  • Make time for good sleep. Without early wake-up times, you can catch up on sleep.

Trips

Taking trips over school breaks can be exciting but can also cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Here are some tips to help you deal with travel anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.

Think about what you will be doing to get to your destination and what you will most likely be experiencing. From there, you can think about coping mechanisms for the parts you feel most nervous about.

  • Pack a personal bag with things that help you stay occupied and relaxed, such as:
    • Books for reading, coloring or activities.
    • A sketchbook and drawing implements.
    • Downloaded audiobooks, a collection of podcast episodes, or music playlists.
    • Fidget toys.
    • Portable gaming console.
    • A deck of cards to play with family.
    • Your preferred device and a charger.

  • Make a list of exercises you can do in the moment to help you deescalate feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious, such as:
    • Focus on breathing — Guided deep breathing with NAMI Ambassador Soul Cole.
    • Pull out a fidget toy to redirect your focus.
    • Eat sour candy to help ground yourself and bring you into the present moment. This is more of a temporary solution to help get you to your next exercise.
    • Try grounding exercises.
    • Write out your thoughts in your phone notes or a journal.
    • Look up videos of desk yoga exercises you can do with limited space or from a seated position.

Addressing the Feeling of Isolation

Although a break from school is great for relieving all the pressures of schoolwork, it’s important that you stay connected to avoid feeling isolated and disconnected from your support systems. 

  • Before you get to your school break, talk with your friends about hosting a party or get-together. You can go many different directions and have fun doing what you all enjoy, such as:
    • A potluck.
    • Boardgames/Card Games – like Say It Out Loud!
    • Crafting.
    • Video games.
    • Whatever will create a fun and welcoming environment!

  • Going to be out of town for most of your break? Take advantage of online meeting services and meet up to chat or play games.

  • If you can’t get all your friends together, try to arrange small outings or kick-backs to catch up and vibe together.

  • This might not sound as fun or exciting, but you could schedule days to get together with friends to finish any school break assignments. Company makes things easier, and you can help each other out with difficult assignments.

  • Everyone busy? Think about looking at local events or groups you can join, such as:
    • Community center events.
    • Local organization events.
    • Gym events.
    • Church events.
    • Volunteering for a cause! Check directly with the organization to see whether they have any age restrictions.

If you feel alone and need someone to talk to and don’t know where to go, you can always access NAMI’s Teen and Young Adult HelpLine by texting “Friend” to 62640 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. You don’t have to be in crisis to connect.

Here are some additional helplines:

Trevor Project: LGBTQ+ hotline available 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Crisis Text Line: Mental health support available 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Taking on the Role of Supervising Younger Siblings

Now that school is out, you might have to take on the responsibility of your younger siblings while your parent(s) are at work. This can be a big blow to any plans you have or want to make with friends. Depending on the age of your sibling(s), your level of care will be different. Talk with your parents about expectations and boundaries regarding this role. Not all parents will have flexibility, but it doesn’t hurt to come up with a schedule that supports you making time for yourself.

Examples of support to help make time for yourself:

  • Parents begin supervising your siblings when they come back from work.
    • If a sibling needs more supervision, adjust roles as needed.

  • Work with your parents to have “days off” where you focus on yourself and get time to hang out with friends.

  • Teach younger siblings age-appropriate skills to help them help you.
    • Helping with meal preparation.
    • Easy cleaning chores, such as sweeping, wiping down counters, picking up toys, etc.

However you decide to spend your school break, we hope that you consider some of these suggestions to find what works best to support your mental health.

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