By Michelle Covington

*This post was originally published last summer, but we thought the tips were good enough to revisit, so we’re recycling it. Enjoy!

Keep your teen busy this summerHas it hit you yet? The realization that summer is here and the kids have nothing to do until school resumes in August?

If your kids aren’t out of school already, they soon will be. Research shows us that risk activities among teens pick up significantly during the months of June and July. During these months, teens typically have a lot of unstructured time on their hands and less supervision. This combination can lead to poor decision making.

More teenagers start drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes and marijuana in June and July than at any other point during the year. Sexual experimentation also increases.

Read more about teen drug and alcohol use.

We want our teens to enjoy their time away from school, but it’s important that we help them enjoy that time responsibly. The decisions they make during the summer can still have a negative impact on their futures. Learning how to make the most of free time is an essential life skill that we can help them learn by building a structured schedule of summer activities.

Here are some ways that you can be proactive and help your teens stave off the boredom of summer and the risk activities that could accompany it.

  1. Plan ahead – You can save yourself and your teen a lot of frustration and miscommunication by sitting down together at the  beginning of the summer and planning out their summer activities. Be sensitive to your teen’s needs. Don’t over-pack their schedule. They still need a little bit of a break. Make sure you engage them in things they enjoy. Talk to them about what they want to do with their summer with the understanding that there needs to a certain, agreed-upon amount of structured activity.
  2. Summer Camps – Find an athletic or academic camp that your teen would enjoy. Camps are a great way for teens to stay busy doing things they like  and developing new friendships. Camps can be a great way for your teen to challenge themselves to improve skills they already have.
  3. Family Vacations – Make sure you plan to spend some extra time with your teens this summer. Summer months are a great time for you to focus on strengthening your relationship and your dialogue with your teens. You can benefit from shared fun experiences with your teens and more time to talk about what’s going on in their lives. Plan family dinners, evening outings, and weekend trips, or longer if you can take the time off work.
  4. Summer Job – A part-time summer job is a great way for teens to build their resume, learn responsibility and make a little extra money. Help your teen check out what businesses around town might be looking for part-time summer workers. Teens might also consider going into business for themselves by babysitting, dog walking, pool cleaning, or yard work. Older teens might benefit from an internship in a field they’re interested in before college.
  5. Household chores – You can probably already hear your teens groaning at this one, but being involved in household responsibilities is important for teenagers for a number of reasons. At some point, they will have to do these things for themselves anyway. Learning and developing the habit as a teen will help them be more prepared when they leave the home. Chores can help instill a sense of responsibility in teens, both to take care of their surroundings and to help shoulder family commitments. Make sure your teen knows that their chores aren’t punishments, but normal expectations of growing up. Sit down with your teen and discuss their list of household jobs for the summer.
  6. Volunteering – Hospitals, retirement homes, food banks, and animal shelters are constantly looking for help. Getting your teens involved in one of these projects can be very beneficial both to the teen volunteer and to the organization. If you need help finding volunteer options, there are plenty of websites that can help you out, like this one.
  7. Exercise – Encourage your teen to set up an exercise routine for the summer. A regular workout schedule can help teens stay healthy and feel good about themselves. However, keep in mind that excessive workouts can be a warning sign for an eating disorder. Make sure you have discussed healthy balances in exercise and body image with your teen. (If you are concerned that your teen might struggle with negative body image, visit our self-image page for more information on what to look for.)

 

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