Many young people look forward to the summer holidays, especially as it can mean a change of routine where they may:
- spend more time than usual at home
- go away on a holiday somewhere
- work or volunteer
- spend time with family and friends
How do you generally spend the summer holidays? Do you have family get togethers and how do these go for you? Do you have lots of spare time on your hands or do you spend more time working or doing other tasks?
Holidays are generally thought to be fun but they can also get people down for lots of different reasons. You may be able to think back on holidays that have been fun and also ones that have not gone so well. Whatever this period of time means for you, it can be helpful to think about how you will be spending your time, how to make the most of it, and if necessary, how to manage any challenges that may come up.
Following are some of the main kinds of challenges that can arise for young people over this time and some ideas about how to handle them.
Everyone experiences boredom from time to time, and it is no fun. School holidays often mean being at home for long periods of time while parents or friends are at work. Young people sometimes tell us they get bored during this time. Boredom can hit when someone:
- has no one around to hang out or do things with
- lives somewhere that doesn't have much going on
- doesn't have any money to go and do things
- just doesn't know what to do with themselves during the break
Have you ever been in this situation? What do you do to keep yourself entertained during the holidays?
Young people have told us these things can help:
- Community events, youth programs and activities - have a look online or in the newspaper for events in your local area - often they will be run by your local council or community groups. You could also call to find out what is going on
- Creativity - pursue some of your own particular interests in a more focused way. Set yourself some goals or create projects
- Volunteering - support others by volunteering to help out somewhere. This might be helping to run holiday programs for smaller kids, working at a soup kitchen or helping out at a charity. Volunteering can also go on your resume as work experience. Contact volunteering organisations or local charities and see what is available
- Helping out - help out where needed and learn new skills, have responsibilities and hopefully be valued and appreciated. Ask around your family or neighbourhood for some opportunities
- Working - earn some money to pass time if there are jobs in your local area. Working can also be a great way to meet new people and learn skills for future employment
- Socialising - spend time with friends or family
Sometimes young people can find themselves socially isolated. This can be temporary or it can be more ongoing. A sense of loneliness can be more difficult during the holidays, Christmas and New Year celebrations, or when a life structure or routine change happens.
Reasons young people may feel lonely include:
- being away from friends or family
- having relocated or immigrated to Australia
- feeling shy
- having extra time on their hands during the public holidays and having no one else around to spend it with
- seeing others celebrating and having fun when their life is different
- recovering from illness or trauma
Dealing with loneliness is often about finding ways to get involved in things, getting connected with others or developing confidence. If loneliness is an ongoing theme in your life it really helps to get counselling or support to explore ways to address this problem.
Social networking sites offer a forum to meet people from different backgrounds with common interests, or to keep in touch with friends that may be away on holiday. Young people often turn to social networking sites like Facebook or My Space, when they feel lonely or isolated.
Although social networking is a great way to meet and connect with people, it is really important to make sure that you stay safe while interacting online and that you don't try to meet all your social needs through your computer. Just like any environment, the internet can be a fun place, but it can be unsafe as well - so it is very important that you keep yourself safe!
Things to keep in mind:
- Be careful about what information you publish in your profile - your pictures and info can be seen by employers, your school or someone who may be looking to take advantage of you
- Be aware of how much time you are spending online and how it is affecting your health and relationships - some times people can isolate themselves from family and friends
- Ensure that you balance your online and offline life and check that you get enough exercise and sunshine
- Be very careful about meeting someone who you have met online
- Don't do or send anything that you don't want to or don't feel comfortable with
- Never send naked or sexual pictures of yourself
- Make sure your computer has up to date security and virus protection
- Make sure you set your profile as private!
Family conflict and relationship stress
Most people look forward to catching up with friends and family during the holidays. If families celebrate Christmas and New Year, they may have lots of get togethers, exchanges of gifts and happy times.
Unfortunately, not all people have positive experiences with family get togethers. Underlying or unresolved relationship issues can surface when family or friends get together and celebrations can sometimes turn to conflict.
Things that can add to stress and conflict over the holiday period include:
- overuse of alcohol
- increased financial stress
- too much time with others
- unresolved relationship issues
- meeting family members that have caused hurt to others
- arguments, confrontations and violence
- family separations and blended family situations
It can help to plan ahead if you feel your family get togethers may create challenges. Planning things like how to manage, problem solve or cope with any existing issues can be useful. It may not always be possible to change how other people behave, but it is possible to choose how you respond.
Some ideas young people have told us they find helpful in these situations include:
- thinking about which people are best to hang out with
- planning people to stay with and places to go if needed
- having a private place to retreat to
- creating a backup plan of action if something goes bad
Loss, grief and missing loved ones
Celebrations can be a reminder of loved ones that aren't around anymore. For those who celebrate Christmas, it can be a time when people really miss and remember those who are gone or are not there. You may have experienced this at some time or other. For example:
- a grandparent may have passed away
- a sibling may have been posted overseas
- a parent may not be around due to separation
- divorce may have divided your family
Feeling different emotions such as sadness or anger when missing someone is normal, and people can feel different things at different times. It is helpful to have someone you trust to talk about these feelings with. Other ideas that have helped some young people include:
- having some alone time and allowing feelings to arise
- journaling or expressing sadness or anger privately and having time to cry
- creating rituals or memorials to remember the person
- having that person's photo present at family gatherings
- seeking and giving support to other close people
- spiritual or religious support for people that have these beliefs and practices
- making time for fun and distractions from sad feelings
More information is available from our Hot Topic on Grief and Loss.
Alcohol and other drugs
Celebrations or get togethers during the holidays may involve alcohol or other drugs. Occasions such as 'Schoolies Week' or New Year can involve parties with alcohol or drugs, and many young Australians will try them out at some time. However, if people develop problematic patterns of drug or alcohol use it can disrupt their lives and relationships, and cause health problems.
If you use alcohol or other drugs, it can really help to:
- find out more about drugs and alcohol and their effects and risks
- think of ideas of how to minimise risks when using
- make helpful choices about who you hang out with
- read useful information about alcohol and drugs
More information is available on our Hot Topic on Alcohol and Other Drugs.
Safety at 'Schoolies Week'
Schoolies can be a time where young people make decisions to have sex, and with lots of alcohol or drugs around sometimes decisions are made that have big consequences on the rest of their lives. These can include unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections or having sexual experiences that you felt pressured into or did not want. These issues can have major longer term consequences and whilst Schoolies is a lot of fun it is important to make plans to keep you safe!
The Queensland government had a useful resource to help you plan to stay safe:
Who else can help?
If you have concerns about any of the above issues or any other issues, Kids Helpline counsellors are here to help you. You can call us on 1800 55 1800 any time, any day, or go online to see how you can talk to us via web or email.
Remember Kids Helpline is here to answer your calls 24/7 during the public holidays as well. Sometimes talking to someone who is objective and outside of the situation can be really helpful. Kids Helpline can also help you to explore options or get the right referrals if needed.
Published: 6 December 2010