I feel that talking about and planning for summer is an important topic each year. Teenagers look forward to their summer break and usually start the countdown right after April vacation. Whether you have a teenager home from college or a teenager out of high school (or middle school) for the summer, you are potentially less thrilled than they are about the summer “break”. Parents often struggle with the summer breaks because they feel like their teen may have too much unstructured time or that they may “sleep their days away”. In addition to this, they generally also want their teens to be able to have some time to relax, have fun and enjoy their time off from school.
I have found that when teenagers do not have any plans or expectations for the summer that it does not go well. It is generally not healthy to have teenagers sleeping all day or not having any sort of responsibility for the entire summer. Of course there are some teenagers who will work all summer full-time and there are some who will fight the idea of working or committing to any schedule as long as they possibly can. It is my experience that doing some planning for the summer and giving teens choices produces the best results that are agreeable to both teens and their parents.
Below are some suggestions I have given to my private clients that I have seen work out well for teenagers during their summer breaks:
- Have a discussion with your teen prior to the summer where you set some expectations. (For Example: “I know that you want to have time to spend with your friends and relax this summer but three days per week you will need to be up and ready to leave the house by 10am – the other days you can relax and sleep in more if you want”) Such discussions both set the expectation and offer your teen some choice.
- Let your teen know that they will have household chores to do – outline them clearly (maybe make a chart) and negotiate any allowance they will receive (if this is something you have for them but it is certainly not necessary) if successfully completing their chores. Hold them accountable to doing their chore before you give them any allowance.
- Let your teen know that they will be expected to work (if age appropriate) or volunteer for a certain number of hours per week. I have had families who have had their teens volunteer at the following places, however, there are many, many more based on your teens interests and your location: animal shelter, nursing home, hospital, library, daycare center, in a work setting that is of interest to them similar to an internship or apprenticeship, soup kitchen. I once worked with a girl who volunteered to help clean in a gym in exchange for a summer gym membership which worked out really well.
- If your teenager is old enough to work, have them start filling out applications now – the earlier the better rather than waiting for everyone else who is finishing up school to begin doing the same thing.
- If your teen is not old enough to work you may encourage them to offer to mow lawns, walk dogs, baby sit locally, etc. These are great ways to begin to teach responsibility and to help them earn a little extra money.
- Explore any appropriate summer sports leagues / camps. This is a great way to help structure your teens days if this is an area of interest for them.
- Explore other enrichment activities: art classes, music lessons, sewing classes, computer classes, photography classes, sailing classes, dance classes, etc. Many of the local community colleges have programs for students during the summer months which offer a wide range of classes.
It is always best to find something that helps build both responsibility and competency in your teenager which will benefit them as they grow into young adults.
For more Parenting Tips designed specifically for parents of teenagers, go to www.HowToParentATeen.com.