Yes, it is summer, and the restrictions of what your teenager can and cannot do are often much different than during the school year. Your teenager spends time at a summer job, with friends and on social media, however that looks. Parents often ask during this time, how much screen time should I allow my teenager to have? Should I turn off the wifi at night or take away their devices? I do not have the answer, and I tell parents if they search the internet they will find numerous thoughts and responses to their questions. What I like to encourage is a conversation between parents and teenagers on what their expectations are for screen time during the summer. The choices that the parents and the teenager make are the consequences that they will have to adhere to once they make a plan on screen time and what that looks like in their family. I encourage teenagers to make sure they are using their time wisely, perhaps with a job. Did they decide that SAT and ACT prep were part of their summer plan? Does your teenager have to complete volunteer hours for graduation? All of these items play into how your teenager utilizes their time and their screen time. I do offer some fun ideas other than screen time. I caveat that with that some teenagers do not find these ideas fun, and that is okay. I do encourage the opportunity to try something new and see how it works.
One of ideas I often toss out is reading, not online but a paper book. The choice can be anything the teenager has an interest in, or one of the books I recommended in my June 7, 2020 blog. Also a number of high schools have a summer reading program, so I encourage parents to ask about what the requirements for school are for reading over the summer.
Another idea I toss out for parents is how to get your teenager outside. Is there something interesting they could walk to in their neighborhood? If not, is there a park or a hiking trail close by that the teenager could roam with some friends or as a family. Being outdoors is a great way to get to know your teenager. To ask questions about their interests, their goals, their favorite music, or who they are following on instagram or watching on YouTube or Netflix. The opportunity to be outside and disconnected creates the space to have a conversation, build trust in your parent-teenage relationship. I encourage the teenager to research a place they may want to explore and then plan the trip within the boundaries set by parents. This may be that the place can be no more than two hours away, it must be under a certain dollar value, or maybe it includes trying out a new restaurant at the end of the road trip. The summer days are long and the opportunity to be outside is not one to be passed up.
A chance to play a board game that your teenager has not played in years. When was the last time your teenager played the board game “Sorry!” Having a family game night is a great way to put the phones aside and to have time to encourage and build the relationship with your teenager. The nice thing about playing a board game with a teenager is that you as a parent do not have to let them win. The game “Clue” can be a little more challenging with a teenager playing than when they were young and wanted to play. The opportunity can also be to play card games or to learn a new card game. It is the ability for everyone to learn something new and be challenged by a new game.
Cooking! Try a new dish. This is important for a few reasons. Teenagers need to know how to cook the basics, and are then encouraged to try something a little more difficult. It is important that their first attempt at cooking is not in college when the food is horrible and they do not know how to boil water. Teaching this skill can be fun, creative, and offer up a few laughs on the less successful dishes your teenager may try to create. Having the pizza number handy is always a great option for a meal prep. That has gone bad.
Other things that a teenager could do, is create a photo collage for their wall. This is fun. They can go somewhere with their friends and take instagram photos and then have them printed and create a collage. All teenagers enjoy taking instagram photos so take that opportunity one step further and have them create that collage for their room. If they are heading off to college what a great keepsake to put up on their dorm wall. That dorm wall will be pretty empty and this is a great way to decorate it and provide that pick me up when your new college student is missing their friends and family.
When I talk with parents about screen time, it always circles back to what works for their family and their teenager. This needs to be a conversation where all those that are involved are allowed to make the choice and live by the consequences that are decided upon.
However, I hope that these ideas provide some new opportunities for you to try.