Teenage Summertime Success: A Parent’s Guide

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast:

Teenage Summertime Success: A Parent’s Guide

Episode 025 · Duration: 00:14:50

Teenage Summertime Success: A Parent’s Guide

Teenage Summertime Success_ A Parent's Guide

The end of the school year can bring a host of feelings to students and their parents as students transition from the structure and routine of school, to the possibilities of summer.

For children, parents usually arrange summertime programs such as day camp or other development programs in areas such as art, sports, science, etc. But when these same kids become teenagers, parents can’t simply decide what they’re going to do and sign them up for.

Teens have their own ideas and expect to be able to make decisions more on their own.  That’s because teens are now on the path to their young adulthoods, that stage of life when they will be making the lion’s share of decisions on their own. Where they go, what they do, and how they do it will all take place without parental oversight.

A successful young adult can set goals, make plans, and execute against those plans. Given that young adulthood is coming up quickly, adolescence should be seen as the time to learn these critical skills and the ten weeks or so of summertime creates a perfect opportunity to do just that.

A successful young adult can set goals, make plans, and execute against those plans.Click To Tweet

Summer Needs Structure

Many kids, however, will want to avoid making plans. They’re living in the moment and relishing the feeling of relief that comes with school ending.

“I’m good. I just want to relax, sleep in and hang out with my friends”, they’ll often say.

As parents, we know how that will work out. With no structure, our kids will turn into blobs of lethargy and, left to their own devices, will often stay glued to their devices and play endless video games.

“I saw this great computer programming camp that you’d love. You’re so good with computers”, says Mom.

“But I don’t know any of those kids.  Besides, I know plenty about computers.  I don’t need a camp”, says the teenager.

Or how about this conversation:  

What are you thinking about doing this summer, sweetheart?  

I’m going to get a job at the ice cream shop.  

Oh, I didn’t even know you applied.

I don’t’ have to, my friend Jason works there and he told the manager about me.  The manager said he’d hire me this summer.

Don’t you think you should go down there and meet him and apply?

Why are you all uptight?  He already said he’d hire me.  I’ll go after finals.

And so it goes with parents trying to encourage planning and engagement with their kids, and kids resisting.  

I don’t mean to disparage teenagers.  Many are very motivated and clear about what they want to do.  Many have jobs or plans such as summer sports, community theater, etc.  And those teenagers that don’t have plans or the desire to plan, have enormous potential that needs to be unlocked in the very activities they are resisting.   

 So let’s take a look at how parents can successfully engage their teenagers and move past the struggle into successfully planning their summer.

Have an Open Conversation

Some kids will have strong and positive ideas for their summer but may be unable to convert those ideas into specific goals and plans.  For instance, a teen might say, “I want to earn some money” or “I want to work on getting my car running.” But any questions about how much money or what kind of job, or how are they going to go about getting their car running might be answered with, “I don’t know. Why are you bugging me?”

The first thing to do is have an open-ended discussion with your teenager.  Here are some ways to have that discussion, and some areas to cover.

Start by asking for their thoughts about what they want to do or accomplish this summer.  No matter what they say, validate their thoughts and feelings.  

For instance:

Teen: “I just want to kick back and hang out with my friends.  I need some down time.”  

Parent:  “Of course you do, that makes perfect sense.  How much kick back time were you thinking about and what else would you like to have happen?”


“I’m not going to have you hanging around doing nothing all summer young lady!!”

Talk about the importance of using the summer to one’s best advantage.  This is a values discussion and by focusing on values, it makes things less personal and invites less resistance.

#ParentingTip: Talk about the importance of using the #summer to one’s best advantage.Click To Tweet

For instance:

“I know you’re tired from school sweetheart, so relaxing makes sense.  Yet the school year is a time when kids have a lot of structure and not a lot of choices.  Summer is a time where you can create your own structure and invest in things that you want to do.  It’s important not to squander that opportunity.  Let’s talk about some of the options and opportunities that make sense for you; that you’d like to take advantage of.”

Sometimes you will need to be firm:

“You absolutely are going to need to involve yourself in some productive things, so let’s take a look at some options.”

There should be some unstructured free time for kids which is important and good for them.  Just make sure that there are limits on video gaming and devices in general beforehand and that those limits are enforced so that you don’t find yourself in an endless control battle.

Summertime Activity Ideas

Here are some ideas for activities and some of the benefits they offer.  

  • Jobs:  Jobs help kids learn responsibility away from their parents.  They’re accountable to their employer and often learn that their effort is very important to a business.  In the case of childcare, it helps kids learn they can make a difference to others and puts them in the role of being a role model and authority.  Teens can feel great about having their own money and it offers them the opportunity to learn money management.  And, make sure that there is a money management plan in place so all of their earnings don’t go into and quickly out of their pockets. Think long-term savings, (car, college, etc.), short-term savings, (guitar, bicycle, etc.), and pocket money, (movies, pizza, etc.)
  • Volunteering:  Volunteer jobs give kids many of the vital lessons of paid jobs.  Kids learn that others count on them and they can make a difference.  It gives kids a sense of their value.
  • Specialized camps: Sports, music, art, technology all give kids a chance to delve deeper into an area they care about.  It gives them a concentrated period of time to really focus and develop their knowledge and skills.  It gives kids experience making new friends who have common areas of interest, yet might be from different schools, locations, and cultures.  It expands them socially.
  • Visiting a relative in a different city or town:  This gives kids a chance to deepen extended family relationships and gives parents and teens a break from each other.  Often kids behave better away from their parents and it breaks bad habits.
  • Family vacations:  Think of family vacations with children and teens more as adventures than as vacations.  Why?  Because they are often not relaxing but they do add significantly to shared family history. They offer a chance for you and your teens to engage life and each other out of your routine and share new experiences together. If you’re open to it, include kids in making the choice about where to vacation.  If the destination is set, invite input into what the activities will be.
  • Getting into nature:  Whether it’s at a camp, a family camping trip, or older teens going off by themselves, using the opportunity of summer time to get into nature is a wonderful thing.  It gets us away from the tyranny of technology and gets us into the beauty and simplicity of nature.  We get reminded of who we are at an essential level and being in nature is important to gain perspective and renewal. Help your kids find the time and means to experience nature.
  • Treatment Programs: If your teenager is having significant and chronic behavior problems such as substance abuse, delinquent behavior, self-cutting, even debilitating depression, using the summer months for a treatment program can be an important shift on the road to health.  There are many kinds of programs designed for teenagers with specific issues.  Contact a licensed placement professional to make sure you’re making the best choice.
  • Playing a Bigger Role in Home Life: A more engaged role in the family during summer can be important.  Kids can play a bigger role in home life such as menu planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, yard work, animal care, and home projects.  All of these activities teach skills important for their independence and they build self-esteem.
  • And even though your kid might act resistant, you can do some things together too.  Cook together, pick out some things to plant in the garden; kids eat the vegetables they grow because they’re proud of themselves. Take videos of things they like to do, such as play in a band, skateboard, dance, for a few ideas.

So if your teen is not managing their summer well, don’t allow yourself to become frustrated and helpless.  Help them make choices, plans, and structures. These are the skills they will need in their next stage of life.

Valuable Resources

Before I say close today, I’ll share a couple of valuable resources.

I know that Developmental Learning Solutions in Santa Cruz and in San Jose has a wide variety of educational and personal interest enhancing activities including math, science, photography, and even for your ADHD youngster, learning to understand your brain and improve your focus. Click here to learn more.

I asked my colleague, Mark Burdick, a psychologist who specializes in educational and therapeutic placements for teenagers and young adults what he would charge to help parents find quality away from home summer resources for their teenagers, and he said he would provide that for no charge. If your teenager is struggling with substance abuse or other self-destructive behaviors, he can help with that as well of course for a reasonable charge. Click here to learn more.

I hope my message of a healthy summer for your teenager helps you help your teenager find and grow their very best self.

Take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it.

A healthy summer for your teenager helps you help your teenager find and grow their very best self.Click To Tweet

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