Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Student Well-Being Opinion

How to Help Students Take a Mental-Health Break This Summer

By Angela Duckworth — June 23, 2021 2 min read
What can students do this summer for their mental health?

“Ask a Psychologist” is going on summer vacation. See you this fall!

What should I encourage students to do this summer for their mental health?

I’m not a clinical psychologist, but here’s something I can recommend from a piece I just wrote for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:

What’s one thing you hope the young people in your life do this summer?

I recently asked a version of this question to the grandfather of one of my students.

Without hesitation, he leaned forward and said with conviction, “I’d say, get off those screens!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Come September, what will young people look back on this summer and remember? Will their highlight reel be an endless stretch of mornings, afternoons, and evenings in their bedroom, faces down, staring into their phones? For too many students, this has been a necessary reality for more than a year.

My fondest hope for young people this summer is that they spend as many hours as possible screen-free, talking to people in three dimensions rather than two. The blue canopy sky above has much more to commend it than the blue-light glow of a phone.

Recent research shows a remarkably strong link between green space and mental health. Young people who grow up near more greenery—literally more vegetation in their immediate neighborhood—are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and a range of other mental-health afflictions. This is true whether children are growing up in cities (think parks and street trees) or in rural communities. And the dose-response relationship between greenery and mental health holds even when controlling for socioeconomic status and other risk factors.

What’s so special about nature? Many things, probably. One is that natural beauty tends to grab our attention “modestly” as some cognitive scientists put it. The sun, moon, and stars call to us gently, inviting us to observe and reflect and sometimes filling us with awe. In contrast, social-media feeds, automatically advancing Netflix episodes, and pop-up ads are attention bullies—forcing us to effortfully resist them.

Don’t let the young people in your life spend this precious season glued to their devices. You love them too much.

Do plan a picnic in the park, a hike in the woods, or even a walk around the block. And give young people the freedom to explore on their own. “I think that I shall never see,” Joyce Kilmer wrote, “a poem lovely as a tree.”

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Student Health & Safety
In this Spotlight, assess what the data says and how educators can play a part in protecting their students, and more.
Student Well-Being Thousands of Kids Lost Parents to COVID-19. Schools Must Prepare to Help the Grieving
While some may view the back-to-school season as a return to “normal,” for those students who’ve lost someone, it will feel anything but.
9 min read
Vickie Quarles, a widow in Memphis, Tenn., lost her husband to COVID-19 in December 2020. She is now raising their five daughters alone. Her older daughter, Alyssa, 18, comforts her in their home.
Vickie Quarles, a widow in Memphis, Tenn., lost her husband to COVID-19 in December 2020. She is now raising their five daughters alone. Her oldest daughter, Alyssa, 18, comforts her in their home.
Karen Pulfer Focht for Education Week
Student Well-Being Nation's Pediatricians Call for All Students, Staff to Wear Masks in School
Countering recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the physicians say even vaccinated students should wear face coverings
5 min read
Students are reminded to wear a mask amidst other chalk drawings on the sidewalk as they arrive for the first day of school at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., on Aug. 24, 2020.
A sidewalk-chalk drawing reminds students to wear a mask as they arrive for the first day of school last August at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
Student Well-Being The Pandemic and Politics Made Life Especially Rough for LGBTQ Youth, Survey Finds
More than 80 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds who say they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning said 2020 was very hard.
2 min read
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. Students and school district officials in Utah are outraged after a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week. A rally was held the following day in response to show support for the LGBTQ community.
People rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School on April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. The day before a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP