Just a couple weeks into summer, and teens everywhere are sleeping past noon. “Is this normal?” we wonder. For moms and dads, life must go on when entering the month of June. For our teens, life takes a pause. School is out for the next several weeks. So what’s the parent of a bored teen to do?
Maybe your work schedule doesn’t allow you to be home with your teen in the summer. Or maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom, but your teen isn’t quite old enough to get a summer job. Whichever describes your situation, you’re not alone. I’ve faced these challenges, as well. And I’ve learned the value of a well-planned strategy to conquer the “I’m bored” syndrome!
I hope these lessons will help you as you embark on yet another summer of long, monotonous days. Here are a few parenting tips to help your bored teen stay motivated and busy this summer.
1. Don’t turn off the alarm clock, just reset it.
The morning after the last day of school, I see countless social media posts exclaiming, “Time to turn off the alarm clock!” A word of caution here – while it’s perfectly acceptable to allow a couple extra hours of sleep, letting them sleep as long as they want can cause unneeded stress for both of you.
Staying in a routine provides a measure of stability, while giving them what their bodies need to stay healthy. According to sleepfoundation.org, a teenager’s biological sleep pattern naturally “shifts toward later times.” However, kids still need to get between 8-10 hours each night.
The solution? Have a conversation with your teen. Give your child a voice in the decision. Then determine together a feasible schedule you both can live with.
2. Make a daily task list, but don’t overdo it.
I started to use the word "chores" here. But what child wants to wake up and see a list of chores waiting for him? If we want to keep our children busy and active during the day, we must remember this: Make the list short and simple. Most adolescents will feel overwhelmed when given a long to-do list with a deadline. We don’t want them to feel defeated before they even begin!
Let’s be realistic with the time they have to complete the list. Two to three items should be plenty, when factoring in things like a lunch break and the occasional text message.
Secondly, find tasks that tap into his interests. For example, my son is great with technology. Digital jobs may take me hours to complete, but my son can finish them in mere minutes! Including jobs he will enjoy makes those less-desirable jobs more bearable.
3. Find ways to reward, but keep it affordable.
Watching our spending becomes more challenging in the summer. Vacations and kids raiding the refrigerator can contribute to a dwindling bank account. We know rewarding them for a completed task list will show appreciation for a job well-done and give them a little spending money, too. So how do we find balance?
There are many ways to reward our teens without overspending. How about letting him invite a friend over to play video games or spend the night? Or maybe offer a movie rental, and let him choose the movie snacks. Many companies offer summer discounts for signing up on their email lists. It will take time invested to research options, but finding ways to reward is time well spent.
4. It’s okay to keep the fun going all night long, but only once in awhile.
Although I’ve learned the importance of keeping a reasonable summer sleep schedule, I also know teens like to break the rules every now and then. So how about some overnight fun to break up the summer monotony?
Have a tent in the garage? My teen still loves to camp out with friends. Summertime gives clear skies for viewing constellations, and midnight is the perfect time for this activity. We also love movies, and sometimes a movie marathon is just the bonding time we need. Allowing for some late-night adventures will show him your fun side. That’s one thing our teens need to see more often.
5. Look for volunteer opportunities, but keep it realistic.
Sure, it would be nice to hear my son say he wants to volunteer every day at our local soup kitchen or the shelter downtown. But I need to be practical. My son responds better to serving when it’s his idea.
Teens are passionate about their beliefs and views. When I include him in the choice-making, the volunteer work will be more than something to put on his college application. It will be the character building experience I want for him.
Also, short-term commitments may be more effective. Teens naturally live in the moment, and doing a job today will provide long-term benefits. Have elderly neighbors that need help with yard work or taking out the trash? Maybe they need someone reliable to take care of pets while on vacation. Volunteer work does not have to be a summer-long commitment to be a blessing.
Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart who teaches about God’s powerful, relatable Word. She is the author of Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Kristine writes about her God-story and helps others discover their own at www.morethanyourself.com.