Ah, Summer! Most school-aged children cannot wait until that bell rings on the last day of school and releases them for the long, lazy summer ahead. Some will head off to camp, some to family vacations, some will sleep all morning, hangout at the pool all afternoon, and play all night. For older teens, those for whom there is no more camp and who are too old for a baby-sitter, summer can present some risk and concerns, especially when both parents are working all day, and jobs are hard to find.
In the past, summer jobs in ice cream shops, landscaping services and local camps and pools have been easy to find for local teens. In the current economy, there are fewer jobs, parents have less to spend on vacations and camps, and some companies are hiring fewer employees and doing more with less. Teens will have less access to paid employment and more free time on their hands this summer. Long hours at home without supervision, boredom and many peers in similar situations can provide opportunities for teens to get into trouble. Just like the statistics that indicate that the hours between 3pm and 6pm are high-risk times for young people during the school year, those hours are extended from 9am to 5pm when teens are regularly left alone while their parents are at work during the summer. You can help your teen be safe, productive and healthy by creating some structure and helping them find valuable ways to fill their time.
Find Useful Projects at Home
Before the summer is in full swing, organize certain household projects for your teens to do – cleaning out a basement, attic or garage, painting, planting, weeding or any other relatively simple, but time-consuming tasks that NEED to be done around the house.
Creating a photo album, a website or other more creative task might also be something that would engage a teen. Consider either paying your teen, or offering some kind of reward that you both agree is motivating. Be sure to set deadlines and check progress daily – offer lots of positive feedback.
Daily Structure – with built-in Down Time
If your teen is going to be home alone, help them schedule and structure their day – including time for sleeping late, watching TV or whatever they want to do that makes helps them relax. Also have them schedule in time for physical activity, healthy meals and some productive chores around the house. Summer is a great time for teens to learn to do their own laundry, prepare meals, grocery shop or vacuum the livingroom.
Community Service or Volunteer work
While being paid might be ideal, sometimes offering to help a neighbor or an organization can lead to paid employment later on. Asking neighbors if they need pet or plant care while they are on vacation, help with yard work or anything else will give teens a sense of purpose, even if it does not pay much. Some local charities also need extra hands during the summer.
? Check in regularly by phone or text
? Drop in occasionally if you work close by or work from home when possible
? Be sure your teen has tools to be productive – a bike, a good meal, cleaning equipment, recipes, directions to stores, etc.
? Rotate with parents friends to share checking in
? Be proactive about requiring that chores and projects be completed on time/daily
? Reward with time off; but only if it is earned
Elizabeth M. Casparian, PhD. is the Executive Director of Princeton-based HiTOPS. To learn more, visit www.hitops.org.