No more early morning wake ups, last minute lunch help, tuba drop offs, midnight test cramming…… summer is here and it’s time to take a deep breath!
For many families, summer consists of “fireflies in a jar” kinda moments, while others look like a scene from a horror flick. Wherever your family falls on the spectrum, here are some tips to not only survive the summer, but ( dare I say it ?)....actually almost enjoy it :)
Summer jobs: It’s so important for teens to develop evidence of success to bolster their confidence and skill sets. Often that kind of growth can only come from a part time job, and summer is the perfect time to make that happen. Let them own the experience of creating their resumes, dropping them off and making their own follow up calls to impress potential employers ( and keep their resume at the top of the pile!) They may kick and scream because it is new and creates anxiety, but patiently encourage them, help them practice, and under no circumstances do it for them. You already know how to get a job, don’t rob them of a great learning opportunity. If you have a teen who refuses to get a job, you are probably making things too easy for them. Are you reinforcing their lack of motivation by giving them what they need? There is an age old expression “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink”....yah but you can sure make them thirsty!
Staying in bed all day: Let’s face it, wouldn’t we all like to do that some days? Have very clear boundaries and reasonable expectations that are set out from the start of summer break to avoid fighting about it for 2 months. It may look like having 1 day a week to laze in bed if it doesn’t interfere with chores/ job/family plans. It may be a 10 am wake up time. Negotiate with your teen what works best for both of you, and please remember that teens biologically require additional sleep to keep up with brain development ( from a brain cell perspective, it’s like a second phase of toddlerhood with some intense learning….hmmmmmm, that explains a lot!:)
Unplug: Our teens are the first generation predominantly wired (literally) for technology. A phone is an extension of themselves that feels very natural, we are wired slightly different and therefore don’t see it the way they do. That being said, everyone needs to unplug at times, and you will win that argument best if you lead by example. Carve out times when it is a natural expectation to “ditch the device”. Plan a family dinner, organize a family movie or game night, spend time in nature, plan tech free blocks in the day ( like before bed to improve sleep quality!)
Combating boredom: It’s the 3rd day of summer break and you are already sick of hearing the dreaded “I’m bored”.... First off, you are not your child’s summer camp counselor. It is important for teens to take ownership and responsibility for their own happiness and contentment. Before summer break even starts, help them brainstorm a reasonable “summer bucket list “ so they have some “go-to” things to do. Include free, local ideas and throw in a few days that need extra planning, let them organize some activities to look forward to. Encourage them to pick up a book, grab some art supplies, purge their rooms, plan a theme night with friends, rent an instrument, join a summer sports team, or create a nature inspired instagram account. Bored is just another way to say “I need a purpose.” Try not to fill a bored kid’s day with chores, that doesn’t provide meaning for them, and will often be used against you in the next argument you get into!
Family engagement: Families who spend quality time together have stronger connections to help weather the inevitable storms. Do some family exercising, go hiking, biking, swimming, throw the baseball or frisbee around. Plan an ice cream date ( who has ever said no to ice cream?) One thing I have find immensely valuable is to share in their interests. I have been in mosh pits, drove hours to see youtube celebrities, ordered crazy things on amazon, and not because I am a push over ( just ask my kids). It’s because I want them to know I see them, I hear them, I love them and I accept them. I want them to explore their uniqueness, and encourage our differences. I also want them to see I am open minded because that is an important life skill to model.
Mental health checklist: Summer inevitably becomes full of late nights, fast food, the occasional hangover depending on ages of teens, and self care goes out the window. Mental well being is built on the foundation of adequate sleep, nutritional food, moderate exercise, and positive social engagement. It’s important for teens to be productive through work, volunteering, chores and responsibilities. It is also important to encourage downtime for recharging and play to remind us not to take life too seriously. If you see your teen struggling, start by looking at their physical needs and don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for support.
Pick your battles: This is a tough one, but definitely a game changer in enjoying the summer. Try saying yes more then no. As parents we are often locked in autopilot and without thought, jump to a no because often it is easier. It is also very defeating to a teen to hear no all the time. They will argue how unfair that is, not because they are defiant but because they are right. Reserve your “ no” for when it counts. Remember that by a matter of development, teens are still pretty egocentric, so you are right, they aren't thinking of your needs when they make plans. There is no need to lose your cool, just make your position clear and consistent. Learn the fine art of negotiating, parenting is a long game, the more effort at the front end, the greater the rewards. And lastly it’s ok to teach them that “your lack of planning is not my emergency”. Sometimes natural consequences do the work for us. Here’s to surviving your summer!!