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Our kids deserve a break from being full-time students. Especially kids who are over-scheduled with sports, after-school activities, out-of-school obligations, and part-time jobs. After being required to do so much, many teens need to get back in balance. A normal response to overwork is vegging out. But after a few weeks of seeing your 13, 14 or 15-year-old looking more and more like a sloth, we parents often feel compelled to push kids to do something “constructive.”
Is this a reasonable expectation? Absolutely. We know that summer is a great time for pursuing special interests, getting involved in community service, learning new skills and expanding your horizons (creatively, socially, culturally, and intellectually). But just because you don’t want your teen lolling around all day doesn’t mean that your enthusiasm for a goal-oriented summer will be shared.
Of course, not all teens have the luxury of “doing nothing” during the summer. Some have to go to summer school to make up coursework. And others have to work because their family’s financial reality requires that they earn money. These kids also need scheduled breaks whenever possible to help keep them rested and balanced (i.e., de-stressed).
And some teens actually dislike unstructured time. They can get antsy when there’s “nothing to do.” So they’re out there applying for summer employment or internships, signing up for sports clinics or courses of all kinds, volunteering in the community, and so on. If your teenager is like this you don’t need to push. In fact, you may be pleading for your son or daughter to “take it easy and relax.” If you model good balance in your own life, your teen is more likely to see the value of it.
But if your teen is happy about doing nothing all summer and you’re not, then I suggest you call a family meeting to discuss Summer Plans ASAP.
- If your teen has an actual idea for the summer, treat it with respect no matter how “out there” it sounds. Tear it down and you will alienate your teen and make him/her unwilling to openly hear your suggestions. The form of the idea is not as important as the substance. Be a good consultant and work with your teen to help make the substance of the idea come to fruition.
- If your teen says, “I don’t want to do anything this summer except hang out with friends, play computer games, go to the mall, watch TV etc.”, then proceed to Step 2 ASAP.
Good luck and may your summer be off to a balanced start.
Got a parent-teen problem you need help with?