Ah, summertime—when the teen livin’ is easy. Sleeping in, lying around—not an academic care in the world. Time off to decompress and to recharge is healthy and necessary, but how much is too much? And what are the best things for teens to do in the summer?
“Teens are under a lot of academic pressure during the school year,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a Princeton, N.J. psychologist and author of the video series Raising Emotionally & Socially Healthy Kids. “These summer months are a great time to step away from that and to reignite an interest, something that they choose to pursue that keeps them motivated and engaged.”
Summer plans for teens may include a sport, or an art class, or a camp.
One of the most valuable aspects of summer, however, is simply “having autonomy, getting a break from the regimented school day, and being able to choose for themselves what activities to pursue,” says Kennedy-Moore.
For older teens, a summer job can not only be a great learning experience but also help them to develop a new circle of friends. “That can be very freeing and give them a chance to be whoever they want to be” away from school, says Kennedy-Moore.
Other summer ideas for teens could include a computer class or math camp, which is a good way to prevent the learning loss that can happen over summer, so long as that activity is driven by your teen’s interest.
Too much down time is probably a bad idea for everyone. Teenagers who sit around all day—especially if no adults are around—have more opportunity to get into risky behaviors.
Instead, parents and teens should work out an agreement for a reasonable wake-up time, number of hours of screen time, and types of activities. For a teen who needs a little prodding, parents can say, “You can choose between these two things, or come up with your own idea,” advises Kennedy-Moore.
A little boredom is okay, too. “Parents don’t have to protect their kids from boredom and should refrain from leaping in to entertain them,” she says. “Some wonderful, creative things can happen when they’re bored.”