10 Things Your Teen Needs This Summer
Summer brings such mixed feelings for people, it seems. Kids are loving life without the rigors of schoolwork and parents are often stressed about the demands brought on by their children being unoccupied for 3 months. Younger children just need to have things to keep them busy but teenagers need to use this time to continue their most important developmental task during this time of their lives: identity development. Here are some suggestions for things to encourage your teens to do during the summer:
- Learn to Drive. What’s up with kids not wanting to drive these days? Maybe it is the fear of parents, but I find a much higher percentage of eligible drivers are not even pursuing their driver’s license. I often hear parents say that their teen is “not responsible enough.” There is no more significant way, in my opinion, for 15, 16, and 17 year-olds to learn responsibility than to learn how to operate a vehicle. Yes, kids can be impulsive and exercise poor judgement at times, but allowing them to get behind the wheel begins to help them exercise the mind-muscles of better decision-making and thinking through complex situations.
- Get Outside. We are losing this generation to electronics. This is not just an opinion; it is a heart-wrenching fact. Let them stimulate all of their senses, not just mental input from games that just make them believe they are doing X, Y, or Z. Let them get sweaty, dirty, and get them back on their bikes, skateboards, and dribbling a basketball or playing golf. Have your Saturday evening meals outside. Get a fire pit (or make one) and roast marshmallows in you back yard. This kind of thing will create memories that will last forever.
- Read. Is there any better way to keep reading skills fresh than to read WITH them? Even if you’re not reading together, aloud, and in the same room, pick some books to read and have your own mini-book club within your family. Visit the library, go to book stores, let them get four books at a time. Have them spend an hour a day just reading.
- Spend Time With Friends. When teens are trying to develop their sense of individuality and identity, the social feedback they get from their friends can be empowering. Parents can tell their sons and daughters they are handsome or pretty or funny, but that means almost nothing compared to when they get those messages from their peers. Learning to adapt to varying social circumstances gives kids a strong sense of strength and freedom to know they are desirable and interpersonally attractive, and—sometimes—how to improve their social skills for the future. Challenge them to have four major activities with friends: birthday parties, a day at the water park, carnivals, or Fourth of July events where they can involve their friends.
- Swim. One of the things that too many people are unable to do is live in the moment. If there is too much idle time, teens especially can get lost in the abstract thinking that isn’t grounded enough in reality. When you’re swimming, there is almost no possible way not to be in the moment. I have often asked my clients, especially in the summer, when was the last time they went swimming. Invariably, the depressed and anxious folks almost never do that. Strange coincidence, maybe, or perhaps that’s the very kind of activity to ward of depression and worry.
- Work for Money. If identity development is the most important task for teens, earning money is a strong dose of self-esteem. Learning that work equals tangible benefits is something that even school can’t teach. Help them find some work, either in your own home or with a neighbor and if they’re old enough, in a proper place of employment. Babysitting, yard work, special deep-cleaning projects and other work for hire can give adolescents a great boost of self-worth.
- Travel. You’re probably noticing a pattern here. IF people want to feel good, they have to be doing things. Go somewhere new. I’m not talking about international travel or expensive air-travel. Go to Lake Mead, Mt. Charleston, the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Big Bear, or other places. Make a few day trips with your kids and use the travel time to talk. Let them teach you something about who they are and what embryonic genius resides within them, all while stimulating their senses with the sights and sounds of novelty or the traditions you can create.
- Visit Family. Get them with their cousins. See the grandparents who may live far away. Send them off for a week to connect with their roots. There is nothing like seeing both the similarities and differences your teens have with their relatives that can help them come to a better sense of who they really are at the deepest levels.
- Learn Something New. Help your kids keep their brains in learning mode. Even if it’s not geometry or Spanish, help them discover fun new skills that can open doors for new hobbies, future career options, or just cool ways of using their time that enriches their understanding of the world. My kids want to make Christmas gifts for each other this year. We will have them draw names and make the gift during the summer. They have plans for woodworking projects and other creative endeavors like things involving photography, graphic design, video production, and even though I have all boys, sewing and little furniture projects.
- Maintain a Good Sleep Schedule. Many kids (and parents) feel there is nothing wrong with letting their teens stay up super late and sleep in every morning during the summer. The thing I don’t like about this is that they get in the habit of thinking “if there is nothing to do tomorrow, I can just kind of waste my time.” Make there be something for them to do tomorrow, early in the morning.