Protecting Teen Mental Health During Dog Days of Summer Vacation

Family vacation: check. Sleep-over with friends: check. Endless hours at the pool: check.

With the first day of the new school year still weeks away, teens are in the midst of the dog dogs of summer. While teens surely love this time away from the classroom, how does the long summer affect their mental health?

During summer break, a typical teenager potentially has 8 to 12 weeks at home, sometimes alone all day, with nothing to do. That usually results in staring at little bright smartphone screens all day long. Such long periods of unstructured time and boredom can be worrisome when a teen is living with mental illness. However, there are many positive ways to make sure teenagers have a satisfying and productive summer vacation, given some advance planning.

William Oswald, CEO of Summit Malibu, a behavioral and addiction treatment center, recommends a part-time job for teens. 

“Having a part-time job is the most important thing [teens] can do to protect their mental health,” Oswald explains in an interview with “They will learn the importance of a work ethic, earn money (which they can then spend on fun activities) and prevent boredom—the number one offender during summer breaks.”

Although less rigid than a school day, planning a summer routine with varied activities provides favorable stability for teens and allows them to explore new interests.

Through volunteering and part-time work, teens benefit from new skills and social connections while simultaneously appreciating the free time of vacation. This minimizes irritability, loneliness and opportunities for getting into trouble—as well as easing the financial burden of entertaining teens for 90 days. With some advance planning, families can position teens for a positive, successful and enjoyable summer break.

Tips for a Successful Summer Break

Find a part-time job
Benefits include income, structure, new skills and social interaction.

Assisting others less fortunate than themselves boosts teen confidence and self-worth.

Plan a trip or unique outing
Spend quality time reconnecting in a new environment.

Looking for more? Check out these resources for young people.

–Outreach and Education Team