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!