In some ways, it feels like I’ve just entered the parenting teens phase and in others, it feels like this is just the norm now and I’m in trouble. I say all of this to say that I, like you, am still learning and don’t have all the answers. But one thing I’m learning early on is that it is HARD parenting a teen when they are out of school. So whether you have summers off like your teen or you still work endless hours, here are some tips on how to actively keep your teen engaged over the summer.
Structured Time is Still Very Helpful and Might Be Necessary
Summer can bring a lot of free time which can be good for your teen but just remember that 80% of the year they are in a very structured environment. Going quickly to a loose environment can cause more stress than they probably even imagine.
Have an easy schedule that they could follow to give their day purpose. If I didn’t do this for my son, he would literally be on his video games for a solid 8 hours. Have some activities that give the day purpose like reading for pleasure, a summer project, learning a new skill, and some chores to help gain some ownership of their space.
Monitor Their Social Life and Calendar
Another thing summer brings is a lot of free time to hang out with friends. This is great! Let your teen take advantage of being with their friends when it’s not sandwiched between 5 minute walks to class and a quick lunch table chat.
If your teen struggles with putting themselves out there socially, encourage them to reach out or even set up a time they could have time with their friends at your house, a park, or any fun things around your town. It is important for your teen to stay socially active in a time when it would be easy for them to lose important friends and connections.
Encourage Them to Get a Job
This was never something I had to worry about in my teen years. I have had a job since I was 14 because it was something I needed to do for myself and my family. Jobs are a great way for teens to have a purpose during their less structured summer. Another benefit of them having a job is they now have their own income. You can decide what works for your family and how they can contribute to their own needs but this is a great way to start working on financial literacy and responsibility before they go off to college/trade school/adult life.
If they aren’t ready or can’t get a job another option is to find a place to serve in the community. Doing service projects can introduce teens to new areas of interest, foster a sense of belonging and connection, and support problem-solving skills.
Usually, the summer is the time you don’t have to set an alarm, have an agenda, or worry about how you react during the next day. So typically this could lead to late-night activities and sleeping away the next day. In reality, teens should be using the summer to create healthy sleeping habits for themselves. Make sure you set the boundaries with your teen on what a healthy sleep schedule looks like for them.
Most importantly, just remember that changes in schedules and routines are when teens can find themselves least connected to what they need. Keep that in mind as we navigate through the summer. When all else fails, just do what you know is best for your teen and in case no one has told you today:
You are doing a GREAT JOB and your teen is lucky to have you!
Tobin graduated with a Bachelors of Music from Texas Tech University. A teacher’s kid twice over, he taught for 13 years before coming to Teen Life. His entire career has been centered around helping students and teens from all walks of life become the best version of themselves.