This article appears in June 2015 edition of Her Family.
Perhaps there is no age that can appreciate the joys of summer more than the teens. Swimsuit weather, no homework, driving privileges…finally. Even those older teenagers with jobs have time and freedom unlike during the school year. It is a glorious time in which lifelong memories are made.
But getting there safely takes a little planning and, perhaps, good ideas and a little encouragement from mom or dad.
Left to their own devices, it would be easy for many teens to quickly fall into negative patterns once the last bell sounds on the school year. While there’s certainly a place for sleeping in, lazy days, and video game marathons, no one, including your teen, is going to feel good about a summer in which nothing else is accomplished. Or, as they might say the week before school starts, “I feel like I wasted my whole vacation.”
Or, even worse, they have too much freedom, leading to trouble or tragedy.
In the Omaha area, there are many options for teens to get involved. If you haven’t already talked with your student about creating a plan for how they will spend their break, you still can.
Many of the big-three choices are already determined by this time: summer employment, summer school, or other school-related activities like athletics or band camp. It may not be too late for your teen to still find a job, but the longer they wait, the harder it may be for them to find something they like that will be flexible enough for their other summer activities.
If a job is not an option, there are other ways to encourage your teen to stay somewhat productive and busy. Look for volunteer opportunities. Even if they are not ongoing, having established projects will keep kids active and learning. Check with your place of worship, your school—even your own workplace might provide opportunities for teens to volunteer.
Teen driving fatalities start going up in June and peak in August.
Local nonprofits have their own rules about their volunteer workforce. Special rules apply when working directly with clients, but in Omaha especially, non-profit organizations hold events nearly every weekend and can always use willing workers to help. Fundraising events like golf tournaments, 5K runs, or auctions generally rely on volunteer power to be successful. Projects like these are terrific ways for older teens to strengthen their resumes for college or future employment.
Just setting a minimum standard or goal for the summer is a step forward for many kids. For example, one goal might be that your child will be responsible for getting dinner on the table twice each week, plus keeping the yard mowed and trimmed—whatever makes sense in your home. The idea is that your teen is not left with endless and empty days to fill with no direction or support.
Parents should also be aware that summer—not winter—is by far the most dangerous time for teen drivers. Teen driving fatalities start going up in June and peak in August. You may want to have a conversation that revisits basic safe driving rules about having additional teens in the vehicle, drinking and driving, texting and driving, and frankly, unnecessary driving.
Above all, cherish the time you still have with your children at home. Enjoy the adults they are becoming, and do what you can to help them get there—happily and safely.