Our kids have been at home more than at school this past year. Usually we would be looking forward to no early morning school runs, no chaotic after-school timetables, a bit of down time... but wait, we have been living like this for months. It feels like our kids should be heading back to school, not starting holidays!
I could list out all the possible activities our kids could do, although many have been curtailed due to Covid-19, but as our kids get older, summers do change dramatically and maybe there is another way to look at summer ’21.
Teenagers need to feel a drive, a motivation, a sense of purpose and social interaction in order to be mentally healthy.
For many, the summer months can be exciting, spending time with friends, but for many the summer months can contribute to feelings of loneIiness, isolation and sadness.
To help your teen to have a sense of purpose, consider the following:
Challenge them to come up with ideas for day trips, meal ideas, possible summer jobs (around the house if necessary), weekend trips, anything to pass the days in a positive way.
Teens thrive when they are allowed some responsibility for what the family does. Teenagers do not react well to being told what to do, parents really need to play clever here.
Of course they will grumble and rant and rave, but behind the rolled eyes is a kid who is developing a sense of purpose. He needs to understand that he is part of the family and everyone in the family contributes to the overall running of the house.
Age-appropriate jobs are so important — emptying the dishwasher, cooking dinner, setting the fire, putting on a wash, hoovering the house, weeding the garden and so many more. If we do not teach our kids how to do these things, who will?
We may not be able to prepare the future for our kids, but we can prepare our kids for the future.
There are many other jobs around the house that teens can do; cutting the grass, painting a fence, walking the dog, babysitting, clearing the garage, reorganising their room... whatever it may be, get them busy.
Nothing like earning their own money or paying their phone bill to get them working. Whatever incentive it takes, use it.
Sometimes it is worth asking grandparents, extended family or neighbours if they have jobs for them to do. Helping others is a great way to build their confidence, feel useful and have a real sense of purpose, don’t underestimate it.
It is important to remember that most teenagers just want is to hang out with their friends.
Psychologically, this is a time in their lives when they crave to feel included, part of a peer group, accepted. It can be a testing time for parents as it can be hard to allow them this freedom.
My motto has always been ‘trust them until they give you a reason not to’. Many kids I work with can really struggle when their parents do not trust them, even though they have never given them a reason not to.
My advice is, try not to base your decision on an older sibling’s behaviour, a friend’s advice, or a neighbour’s rules, your child is yours and you do know them best. Give them the benefit of your trust, unless they give you a reason not to.
Summer holidays is a great time to talk about this, set age-appropriate boundaries around bedtime, screen time, free time, hanging out time, etc. If your teen sticks to the rules, all is good, but, if they break the rules there has to be consequences.
Set all of these in place at the start of the summer holidays, it really does help. Kids tend to get used to the rules once we stick to them. Try not to confuse things by giving in to them (even if you feel you can’t take one more argument). Walk away, breathe, take time out, but above all else, stick to the boundaries.
For the quieter, more introverted teen, things may work a little differently; for some, spending time in their own company is what works best for them. Parents can often find this frustrating as they may want to see their child out socialising and mixing with others. Let’s remember the most important thing here is that your child is happy.
Many teens are not ready for socialising (possibly drinking, smoking, sexual activities, etc), and protect themselves by not going out with their peers. A lot of creative kids like to spend time online making music, short films, writing, coding, looking for new ideas, and so much more.
This time online is not the same as scrolling through snapchat and instagram or gaming for hours on end, this is feeding their creativity. It cannot be treated the same.
I fully understand parents worrying their kids are spending too much time on their own but we need to remember for many this is where there are most comfortable for now.
What is important here is to ensure you child is connecting with someone else whenever possible, at family meals, weekend walks, visiting grandparents, babysitting for other family members and/or extended family. There does need to be a balance between virtual worlds and real worlds.
Summer can be a great opportunity to spend a little extra time with our kids. (Yes, I fully understand we seem to have been spending a lot of time with them recently, but, with no school to focus on, things do need to change a little.) We are rearing the next generation, the leaders, politicians, teachers, the motivators, the creators, etc, take time to get to know your kid’s passions and strengths, their weaknesses and their struggles. Get to know them better and help them to get to know themselves better. Watch them as they interact with people, cook, dance, play music, garden, whatever it may be, notice them. Are they happy? Are they interested? Are they excited? You may well get a few surprises.
I know I certainly did not know my kids as well as I thought at times. It is so important we are interested in who our kids are, who they really are, not who we presumed they would be. All our kids are individuals and have their own passions and dreams, it is vital we notice these differences and acknowledge them.
You are the most important person in your kid’s world, I know they might not always act like that is true, but believe me, it is. I have worked with so many teenagers who want their parents to see them for who they really are, to open up and talk to them about the important things in their lives. To be able to listen, without judgement, when they want to tell them something that is really important to them.
I find myself with three of my kids living abroad now and one at home, and honestly I miss that madness of summer, the craziness of trying to keep it all going, the fun and the exhaustion of planning day trips.
This time passes all too quickly, use it well, make memories, cherish each other, have fun and let your kids get to know the real you, as you get to know the real them!
For more on Eileen Keane Haly see JumpStartYourConfidence.com