Parents can help kids overcome summertime blues

June 09, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

School's out for summer and we can almost hear the children cheering ... at least for now.

After the initial euphoria wears off and a lack of projects leads to boredom, those glad smiles can turn into sad, lonely faces.

How can a parent prevent this from happening?

Try some Blues Busters. Not tunes leftover from last week's Western Maryland Blues Fest, but suggestions to help kids lift their own spirits.

Dr. James J. Crist provides some suggestions in his book, "What to Do When You're Sad and Lonely: A Guide for Kids."


"I wanted to give kids resources," says Crist, who writes directly to children in a simple, easy-to-understand fashion. The book is designed for ages 9 to 13.

Crist says it's important for children to identify their feelings and to know how to get help if they need it.

This time of year can be particularly challenging for some children.

"Most kids are relieved at the end of school. Other kids are more socially isolated," Crist says. "Kids who don't have anyone to play with are more affected."

Children can refer to these ideas as their "coping strategy cards," Crist says.

Crist offers these suggestions in his book:

  • Talk it out. "When you share your sad feelings with someone else, the feelings don't seem so heavy and you don't feel so alone anymore," he writes.

  • Express yourself. Write in a journal. Draw a picture. Make a collage. Write a song or poem. Play an instrument.

  • Exercise. When you exercise, your brain produces chemicals called endorphins that help you to feel better. Avoid too much TV or computer time, which can cause increased feelings of isolation.

  • Eat right. Choose a healthy, well-balanced diet.

  • Focus on the positive. Think good thoughts. Count your blessings.

  • Switch your brain gears. When you feel sad, think about something else for a while.

  • Make connections. Join a club or attend a camp where you can make new friends. Make playdates with your friends. Plan a family game night.

  • Let yourself feel sad. Set a time limit. Then plan to do something fun.

  • Take time for yourself. Doing something you really enjoy may pull you out of the sadness.

  • Help someone. This can help you take your mind off of your troubles.

Sometimes it takes more than a Blues Buster to help a child break out of a sad and lonely state. How can a parent know when it is time to intervene?

If the mood is persisting and interfering with the child's normal functioning, it might be time to seek professional help, says Crist, a clinical psychologist since 1990.

"Don't be afraid to get an evaluation for your child," Crist says. If depression or another disorder is caught early, it can save the child a lot of frustration in the long run, he says.

Sometimes a child just needs help thinking differently about a situation.

For example, if a child is sad because a friend he called can't come over to play, the parent can help the child view the situation realistically, Crist says.

The parent can tell the child that a no to an invitation doesn't necessarily mean that the other person doesn't want to come over. Perhaps he had other plans. Then the parent can suggest another day the following week. That will give the child an activity to which he can look forward.

That's something we all want, especially in the summertime.

For more information about the book "What to Do When You're Sad and Lonely: A Guide for Kids," go to

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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