Summer is right around the corner and most teens are chomping at the bit to get out of school and run amuck. Teens look to summer as though it is meant to be full of languorous weeks of doing nothing.
Is your teen suddenly refusing to go to summer camp? Try looking at this from your teen’s perspective: Are they simply asking for more freedom and less structure? Now try looking at it from your own: Is there a new social circle involved or is this a legitimate request for trust and independence? Has your teen earned your trust and shown you they are capable of being responsible to this degree? If it’s the latter, perhaps your teen is ready for an independent summer. This has to be earned, however, and has to come with a built-in infrastructure of firm boundaries and reliable familial support.
For parents, summer may represent stress, fear, and concern. When our kids were younger, it was easier to arrange for full-day summer camps and activities and just send them off. During the teen years, it’s not unusual for teenagers to mightily disagree with attending camp as they individuate and want independence. The biggest challenge for parents is finding a way to eliminate or lessen boredom because boredom creates a breeding ground for reckless behavior.
It’s not uncommon for teens to be on their own during the summer break, despite the availability of various summer camps. A teen self-monitoring themselves can realistically look like young adolescents with too much time on their hands, wandering around with friends, looking for things to do. This is a perfect recipe for trouble: adolescence, boredom, time, freedom, and few responsibilities.
The following things with help you build a foundation for a good summer:
- Create a schedule. This can help create a sense of productivity and will help alleviate boredom.
- Boundaries: Create and maintain healthy boundaries. If you don’t want your son or daughter to go to a specific place, say so and have a consequence if they break the rule. Boundaries are limitations devised to generate safety and respect.
- Family dinners: Sit down every night, whether it is at home or in a restaurant. Make dinnertime the time when you sit down and reconnect as a family. Turn off media, and technology and spend quality time with each other.
- Encourage your teen to get a job: Jobs teach responsibility and provide structure. Jobs teach one how to show up, stay occupied, and they encourage healthy self-esteem and a sense of independence.
- Encourage your teen to volunteer: There are tons of volunteering activities available. Animal shelters, youth camps, food banks, et cetera. Being of service is empowering and teaches responsibility.
- Encourage your teen to be active: Learning to surf, running, swimming, rock climbing. Summer is the time to get outside and get active. A tired teenager is a good thing!
Staying busy and active means there are less opportunities to get into trouble. Kids who are active and occupied in healthy, productive ways, are less likely to use drugs. However, if you are concerned that your children are using drugs, you can purchase some home drug tests and have them on hand. Let your child know that you will test them if you suspect unsavory activity. We see a lot of kids in early fall; part of that is due to the fallout from getting high over the summer. Parents need to stay aware and on top of what’s happening in the lives of their teens.
While boredom and idle time is dangerous for adolescents, complacency and unawareness is detrimental for parents.