How to Keep Your Teens Busy This Summer Without Stressing Them Out

When your kids are little, summer can mean a couple choices, depending on your household work situation. You send them to camps or keep them home and listen to them whine about being bored. While it can be an expensive and frustrating time of year, it’s not so bad when they’re young and easily entertained. But what happens when your tween turns into a teen?

Now we’re talking summer jobs, time with friends, maybe driving on their own, and a potentially dangerous amount of time on their hands. So a lot of parents choose to keep their teenagers’ schedules packed all summer long.

While I’m not against a summer job or internship, even a short stint of studying abroad, I am an advocate for breaks of all kinds. Summer becomes more and more critical as your teen approaches college, and especially when they’re in college.

Not only is it a time to reset and get their minds in the right place for the upcoming school year, but it’s one of the few times when they can truly feel like they have no responsibilities. It’s the last little taste of childhood, if you will. Many of us wish we had savored those years a bit more, so why take the lazy moments away from our kids?

Bonus: it’s in the peace and quiet where we can be stricken with our greatest inspiration. Your teen could actually gain focus and dedication, discover a passion, or finally choose that college major if they have the time to slow down and escape the expectations for awhile.

Mentoring and Anxiety Coaching for Overwhelmed Teens

However, I’m not saying you should let them lie around in bed for two or three months, scrolling through Instagram and forgetting to shower. By the same token, you should not let your teen see summer as just another chance to get ahead academically and never take a moment to breathe.

It’s all about balance. It may require showing your teen what that looks like in a new season of the year. Balance during the fall and spring, when they have a heavy workload or sports schedule, is not going to look like balance in the summer time.

Here are my top three tips for giving your teen a stress-free summer, while allowing them the freedom to get involved in the things they care about.

  1. Plan summer activities at least one month ahead. For most of you, that means start now! If your child is taking summer classes or applying for a job, they’ve most likely had to think about it in advance. I suggest using a family shared calendar app or a big wall calendar to help them visualize what these commitments will mean for their everyday schedules. Many high-achieving teens can have big ambitions for what they’ll get done in the summer but once that time comes, they just want a break! Avoid any conflict by discussing what they’re willing to do, and set limits on the number of hours you find reasonable for them to be working, volunteering, etc. They may not understand your hesitation when it comes to a hectic schedule, but they don’t have to. You know how your child deals with stress, and this is an opportunity to demonstrate to them that it’s possible to be productive and dedicated without being constantly overwhelmed.

  2. Give them at least 1/3 of the summer free of academic commitments. It can be wise to take easy classes in the summer if it means lessening the school-year workload. And with many students now taking online courses, it seems like signing up for two or three will be no big deal. However, I highly recommend that every teenager give themselves anywhere from a few weeks to two months with absolutely no papers due, no exams to take, no intense pressure to deal with. Just like adults need vacation, our kids truly need this hiatus to avoid feeling high levels of anxiety year-round.

  3. Require family time, even if they’re kicking and screaming. Yes, this is the phase of life where your kids may want to eat dinner in their rooms and spend every free moment with friends. But even if you have a reluctant college student on your hands, they still need your consistency. If they’re staying in your home, you can require that they show up at the table each night and complete a certain amount of chores every week, just like you did when they were younger. Freedom with limits is the key. The family time is not just about teaching them responsibility and respect, though. An added benefit for stressed teens is the opportunity to spontaneously open up. At the end of the day, they’ll only talk about anxiety or feeling overly pressured if you give them the time and space to do so. Build family connection into your lives during the summer just like you do during the school year, because this more carefree season can be the perfect time to review how things are under the surface busyness.

Bottom line: Let summer be summer! Let your kids lounge around, spend time outdoors, and hang out with their friends with very few rules. And if they’d rather bury their head in the books like they do the rest of the year, require some of it. As long as you establish expectations ahead of time, summer can be a relaxing time for you and them.

Even after reading these tips, does it seem impossible to negotiate with your driven teen?

I understand. Sometimes they need an outside voice. Especially if your child is pursuing supplemental academic courses or test prep in the summer, they need support to maintain a healthy balance.

That’s why I’m here. In addition to my regular coaching options, I’m offering flexible tutoring for the summer. If you want your child to get the support they need but know they can’t necessarily keep to a schedule this time of year, my flex tutoring is your solution. Click below to sign up.

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Chelsea Torres