As usual, summertime has sneaked up on us and with it a new wave of heat, rain, and challenges for parents of teenagers. Hurricane season official begins on June 1 and the pent up excitement in your teen’s eyes means the last day of school is quickly approaching. First off, make sure your teenager is preparing for final exams and closing out a strong school year. Next, figuring out what your teen is going to be doing for the next 3 months. Remember those long summer months off during high school and college? Did you take full advantage of the time off? Probably not, but like they say, “youth is wasted on the young.”
Summertime can be a challenging time for parents. Work schedules don’t change for many parents yet your teen’s schedule is up in the air, which can cause distress as families adjust. Depending on the age of your children, summer can be more difficult than other times of year. Younger children and tweens are more likely to follow the summer plan you have outlined for them, whether that means more time with the grandparents, a trip to a summer camp, or some summer schooling. On the other hand, older teens are more independent, especially if they drive or have their own car. So as a parent what can you do this summer to keep your teenager off the couch and out of trouble while preserving your sanity?
1. Schedule family summertime:
Take a moment to sit down and look at your calendar and cross off planned family time like road trips, vacations, visiting relatives, or any other family time where your teenager’s time will be accounted for. Make sure your teenager is aware of these dates and that they are expected to attend. This will reduce the likelihood of fighting down the road. Can’t take off work or having trouble thinking of family activities? It’s never too early to visit in-state universities like the University of Miami, University of Florida, or Florida State University. These campus visits can be done in a weekend, don’t require air travel, and will motivate your teen and get them thinking early about college.
2. Fill in the gaps:
Now that family time is accounted for, it’s time to fill in the gaps. If you don’t have a lot of family events planned this can look like a daunting task. To make this easier, focus on daily activities, weekly activities, and monthly activities. Tell your teenager that just because they don’t have school doesn’t mean that they don’t have to wake up at a reasonable time. Encourage them to pick up a daily activity to help them stay structured and avoid boredom. Going to the gym is an inexpensive and healthy habit to pick up. Exercising lifts moods and energy and you’ll be surprised how much of their daily time it can take up. Between driving to the gym, exercising, back home to get showered and dressed and there goes two to three hours. If they have a part time job encourage them to pick up more shifts to earn some extra money. If they don’t have a job, it’s the perfect time to start looking.
3. Encourage goals:
It’s no secret that successful people are very goal oriented. Take this time to encourage your teenager to list attainable goals they can accomplish this summer. Open the conversation by saying something like this, “I really do miss my summer breaks! If I had 3 months off I would learn Portuguese…or go to the gym every day and tone up for fall…or pick up yoga…or learn to water ski.” You get the idea. Try to motivate your teen by offering a reward if they achieve the goal by the end of summer.
4. Ask for help:
Explain to your teenager that you could really use their help this summer. Acknowledge that summer break is a fun time for them but that you don’t get any breaks. Picking up younger siblings from school, cleaning the kitchen after dinner, or going grocery shopping are a few ideas to keep your teenager busy, instill responsibility, and get some help. The key here is to avoid making these new chores sound like punishments. Ask for help, establish it as routine, and be generous with praise and thanks.
5. Give them say:
Teenagers desperately want independence. Although they are not as ready to be independent as they think, give them some decision making freedom to plan their time. As long as their request is not outrageous let them spend some extra time with friends, stay out a little later, and relax. It’s easy to forget that the life of a teenager today can be stressful and summer breaks is a good time to recharge for another school year. Remember that school is a very social experience and adjusting can be difficult. This can explain why it appears they want to spend even more time with friends. In reality, they are spending less time with friends and more time with family.
By Miguel Brown