Keeping The Slow Summer for Younger Teens

There seems to be a persistent epidemic of bored teen this summer where I live. Our county is half suburban/half rural and the bored teens seem to be mainly girls who are aged 13 – 15.  I guess part of this is that most of them don’t have summer jobs yet, they cannot drive in an area that requires driving to get around, and most of them complain that their friends don’t necessarily live near them.  Not everyone has money for summer camps all summer and many families view summer camps as the antithesis to having a slow summer.

My husband and I had this conversation this morning about what we did over the summer when we were 13 or 14 years old.  Here is how it went:

My Husband:  We were bored too.  Don’t you remember that?

Me: Yes, we were bored and super hot and got eaten alive by giant mosquitos.  We all sat on the curb in a group because none of the mothers would let us back in the house.  They said we could drink from the hose.

My husband:  Yah, I have no idea what my parents did all day.  We would take our bikes, go to the pool, ride around and fish. No one knew exactly where we were.

Me: Yup.  I think I biked probably 10 miles a day around this huge lake that was far away.  No one knew exactly where we were, just that we were out in the neighborhood somewhere.  But here is the difference..there was a group of us… friends…these kids have no friends to be with… .

So, when there are no friends in your neighborhood , no pool with a lifeguard that you can just bike to and hang out at without your parents, things do get a little  complicated.  And what often happens then with nothing to do and lots of heat…screen time slips in for the 13 to 15 year old.  The modern solution to being bored.

So, here are a few things I have been pondering:

  • Give up the notion of “creating bigger and better magic” for your teens.  Pool, lake, maybe some camping…it doesn’t have to be this incredibly elaborate thing that you have to try to top every year!  Go for simple, slow, together.   Slow and simple can be magical, and I think we often have this mixed up and feel “bigger and better” equates to “more magic”.
  • Children under 13, especially those 10-13:  Care a lot less that they are “bored”.  They will find something to do.  I had two children under the age of 13  take naps yesterday.  I didn’t know if they were coming down with something, growing, daydreaming, completely bored and didn’t know what else to do…and I didn’t really care beyond the “might be getting sick” part.  They will find something to do, so long as you don’t give into screens and media.  If you do that, then they will NEVER find anything to do and they will follow you around asking for screens and media because they are “so bored”.
  • Make sure you have a small semblance of a rhythm. When our children are young, it is easy to continue circle time and a working rhythm right through the summer months.  With older children, this can get trickier I think.  The teens want/ think that they are on “vacation” and they would like something a little different than the usual school year rhythm. This may come up especially with homeschooling and wanting to differentiate seasons.  So, a small movement that includes daily tasks, a walk, maybe some handwork and reading aloud or discussing things together, the lake or pool – this small skeleton of a structure is all still really important!  Some parents of teens I know tell their teens they HAVE to be up at 9 or 9:30 (if their teen is the type to want to sleep until noon) because otherwise it gets really difficult with going to bed at midnight and getting up at 11 or noon, and the whole day is gone.  Some parents are fine with that, other parents become frustrated.  Figure out where you lie within those parameters.  Our teen still gets up early and goes to bed fairly early, but our whole family is like that, so maybe that is why.
  • If there really are no children around you, of course you can set up a rhythm of when to get together with friends.  I don’t think that should be the focus though, although it is important for teens and developmentally normal for teens to enjoy some close friends. However, I think the focus should be FAMILY.  What are activities you can do as a family?  What can siblings do together without your presence?  What if you have an only teen child – what is the balance there of being home and being out or having friends over all the time?
  • Could you have fun family nights (or whole days?) There are so many ideas on Pinterest for this!  Another idea that I like, which I think works great for teen girls with not a lot of interests is to go to the library and learn about a new topic. Say something about it at dinner.  Investigate!
  • Nature Time – this is, of course, the easiest way to satisfy everyone of varying ages and give mama some time to breathe with older children.  Swimming at the pool or lake, camping at a lake or other body of water. National Park programs.  Things to explore and do.  Delicious!
  • Sometimes mama has to get some work done too, though and can’t “go” all the time. I find it ironic that I have the most work to do homeschool planning these upper grades and high school (more time, more intensity, no resources that are laid out in any way!) but the older children and teens aren’t always content…So empower teens to make their own fun!  A teen can still enjoy a slip and slide, craft kits, handwork, science kits for teens, etc….and yes, work around this house too.  Yes, this may be something you will need to put in a yearly budget – buying some new things for summer for inquiry and investigation.  For work, cleaning out a garage or pantry, deep cleaning, organizing are all things a teen can do.  Cooking is another great skill to practice in summer and teens often don’t need much help other than the recipe or the encouragement to create their own recipe if they are adept in the kitchen.
  • See what jobs might be available for your teen that they could walk to or bike to   – being a mother’s helper, babysitting, pet sitting, mowing lawns, washing cars.  Any of those can be helpful to your neighbors and your teen!
  • Keep your STRONG limits on media, screens, texting.  Most teens are communicating by text, usually group text, in order to arrange getting together.  (Which can also be a little funny to me since these younger teens can’t drive so still it boils down to the parent!)  However, the phone can be docked in a public place most of the time.  The access to the phone can be limited with parental controls. Same thing with a computer.
  • Your self-care time is important!   Just because it is summer doesn’t mean your self-care should stop!  If you look at your week and all it is is driving your children places and arranging activities, balance is always good.  You and your partner count!

Keep your summer slow and family-oriented!

Tell me how you juggle things for your teens!






7 thoughts on “Keeping The Slow Summer for Younger Teens

  1. Excellent post and so timely too. Just discussing last night how kids nowadays expect and seem to feel the deserve to be entertained on car rides, especially longer ones. Our daughter 12.5 is basically media and device free at this point, but clammering hard for access. I feel the minute I crack open that door, the addictive monster will rush in. She is an only child but has lots of real life social time with other homeschooler friends – at least 3 times a week or more via group days, lessons, and just visits. I would love to hear more about exactly what you allow your teen to do with screens. I know the movie Screenagers is making the rounds, but I fear that even that cautionary film will present a level of use that is unacceptable to me. Lots to say about this hot topic, but I would love to hear your thoughts!

    • I would love to hear your thoughts on teens and screens as well Carrie. I feel like I’ve given in too much on this with my soon-to-be 14-year-old, and now it’s time to reign my son back in with media… and I’m afraid it’s going to be ugly. The other challenge is how to keep younger kids away from screens when teens have them–and the younger child continually finds a way to “hang out” with big bro.

      I love this post and can relate to so much of it. My children are expecting me to take them places on a daily basis, and while I do want to have outings several times a week, every day is just too much. I have a lot of my own work to get done. I am hearing a lot of “I’m bored”, and for at least one of my extroverted children, it really means “I’m lonely”… we have no neighborhood kids, and the friends they have do not live close.

      This is our first week off of school, and next week we will be starting into a good, solid routine of daily chores. I have also printed up a long list of extra jobs that they can do to earn money.

  2. Thank you, Carrie. I did mostly babysitting in those years and hung around barefoot a lot. (Much to my mother’s horror.)
    My boy is 11 and is finishing up his last day of part-time school today. He already complains about boredom and often asks for screentime even after he uses up his one hour a week.
    What do you think about letting him earn more screentime for additional chores? I don’t feel good about it but it is working for a friend of mine with her son. And our house would certainly benefit!

    • Mary Lynn,
      I know some families who do that and it works really for them, but I think I would prefer for the children to earn money over screentime. Just the way I am, doesn’t mean that is the right choice for your family, of course! 🙂 You know your family best!

  3. I just spent a wonderful few weeks observing a friend and her teenage children. She and her family used to live in my area and moved away ten years ago. Her family still lives here, and so my friend and her family return about once a year to visit. Her children have friends here, and it was great to see how she navigated the waters of family time and time with friends. Her two teenagers do not have any “devices” of any sort. They watch carefully selected videos and movies (mostly as a family), and that’s it. The regular old telephone is used to set up get togethers with friends. When friends are over, those friends are not allowed to use their devices…no texting, etc. She is very loving, warm, firm and clear on this. She makes her house (and her family’s home) such a fun place to be, that there is no objection to this. There’s swimming, water skiing, playing badmitten, puzzles, crafts, baking, etc. The teenagers have a ball. Her children are expected to do chores, help around the house, help their grandparents with projects, spend time with their parents and grandparents often without their friends around, play with younger children (such as mine), and to be polite, respectful and have pleasant conversation with other adults. She calmly ignores (for a little while) her teenager who flops on the couch with a big bored sigh, and lets her have that moment, and then brings her back to something, whether that is reading or sewing or or going outside by herself or helping, whatever seems right. My friend makes it all look easy! And I know it isn’t. She is very skilled at being centered in her heart and her beliefs and speaking gently but firmly from that place. I hope I can do half as well when my little one is a teen!

    • Me too, Chris. Me too.
      I think in suburban lifestyles, the usage of technology is definitely different and I feel much of it is due to lack of wild spaces, having to be driven everywhere by parents, lack of friends in neighborhood etc.
      Much love,

  4. Pingback: Joyful June | The Parenting Passageway

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