By Tyra Lane-Kingsland, Crosswalk.com
Let’s face it, teens sometimes get a bad wrap. Older generations tend to think of teens as lazy, misguided know-it-alls among other things. Admittedly, some of their vernacular can be confusing and their clothing or music choices can raise an eyebrow, but teens are hardworking, inquisitive thought leaders. As such, adults should look to maximize opportunities to shepherd them–and how they use their time over the summer is one such area that could benefit from adult guidance.
There is merit to adult wisdom. Let us keep in mind this powerful biblical truth, “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom and in all your getting, get understanding," (Proverbs 4:7 NKJV). Parents have been skillfully appointed by God to ensure that children get wisdom. While your teen may balk at having you decide how they spend their time, there are some things that teens should avoid this summer.
Of my six children, I currently have three teens and one tween in the home. Managing their summer schedules requires the tactical precision of a surgeon. But will you hear me complaining? Absolutely not because their summer will be filled with learning and laughter coupled with recreation and rest. It will also require intentionality to ensure that time is spent on things that are wholesome and restorative, on things that build up and not tear down, and on things that are edifying to the mind, body, and spirit.
Here are 5 things your teen should avoid this summer:
1. Summer Slide
Summer slide, also referred to as summer brain drain is the concept that children regress academically over summer. Research has shown that children’s test scores slip in both reading and math over the summer. Hence it is critically important that children and especially teens keep their brains active and engaged.
And summer learning doesn’t have the “feel” like school. They’ve worked all school year and certainly have earned their summer break, but a break from the classroom doesn’t mean a break from learning. Learning should always be encouraged. Teens will be more receptive to learning when it’s things they are interested in so get their buy-in by letting them help select their summer learning opportunities.
Summer presents a great time to focus more attention on specialized interests and hobbies like cooking or art. Perhaps your musician can take a master-level class. One summer, my oldest daughter wanted to get ahead in her math courses so she took a full math class over the summer and was able to satisfy her school course requirement. There are classes offered virtually where you can take anything from how to draw anime to coding. The possibilities are endless.
The library is also a great resource for summer learning. Beyond checking out a ton of books, the library and its resources can be used to help with SAT/ACT test prep, teen meetups, and different types of interest clubs.
Parents can also establish a set “learning” time. In our house, 9 am-12 pm are our set summer learning hours. The expectation has been set that if you’re not going out for work at that time you’ll be doing something to grow your brain. Other learning opportunities can include driving lessons, volunteer/charitable work, college tours, or life-skills training. If your teen doesn’t have a bank account yet this would be a great time to visit the bank and set one up. Teach them about budgeting, paying bills, or other key life skills needed to manage and run a household.
Coming off several years of living through a pandemic, isolation has impacted teens in a variety of ways. From increased social anxiety to depression, teens have had to navigate through a host of mental and emotional health concerns. This summer presents an opportunity for youth to come out of isolation. Whether they’ve been isolated from friends or even isolating themselves from their parents and siblings, parents should take care to encourage their teens to engage in healthy, meaningful relationships and avoid further isolation.
For the teen that has difficulty connecting or is more prone to withdrawing, you may have to be strategic and intentional in creating experiences that encourage them to engage while not being over the top. Facilitating meetups with one or two of their close friends is a good idea. Creating family memories is important too. During the summer while you may all be physically “in” the same house, be sure to do things together as a family. Go for walks together, attend community fairs, plan a staycation, visit museums, go for ice cream, go to the beach, attend an outdoor concert.
Look for ways to create meaningful moments with and for your teens. Meet them on their terms even if that means doing things you normally wouldn’t do. Get in on the action. Instead of just dropping them and their friend off at the amusement park gate, buy yourself a ticket and get on a few rides with them. They’ll probably think you’re corny, but years down the road they are certain to remember it.
3. Too Much Technology Time
This one goes without saying, right? I think most of us would agree that we don’t want our teens spending countless hours mindlessly scrolling. But for our children that can be easier said than done. Teens today grew up in an internet era. It’s practically all they know. It’s their go-to source for education, entertainment, and information. Yet it’s also an area that can be fraught with deception and distortion that is in stark contrast to the truths we are trying to instill in them.
I don’t know about your kids, but my teens probably think my husband and I are “EXTRA,” as the kids would say. We closely manage technology usage. Yes, we have boundaries around technology use. Yes, we will manage what they have access to. Yes, we will limit the amount of time spent on devices. Yes, we will utilize all the parental controls PLUS additional services to weed out potentially unsavory content.
We have an obligation to God to carefully guard the gates. We must be vigilant in not only restricting what they have access to but in training them to know WHY they must guard the gates of what they see and what they hear. We must remind them that their adversary is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
We are also teaching our teens how to steward their time. When not allocated properly, technology can be a huge time-waster. Teens can easily lose track of time and spend hours playing video games or scrolling on social media. The Bible is very clear in encouraging us to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16), so we must instill this fundamental truth into our teens by overseeing electronic consumption.
4. Overpacking the Schedule
For all of the wonderful things to do this summer, we want to be mindful to not overbook the calendar. The oft-heard phrase, “I’m bored” may come up, and that’s okay. Every second of every day is not meant to be filled with planned activities. Many of today’s teens are so used to juggling academics between 3-4 extracurricular activities while sometimes working. Culture, too, has demonized boredom.
All people, including teens, need rest. Our minds need rest. Our emotions need rest. Our senses even need rest. Rest is a biblical principle that we should teach our teens. Let us create space for them to enter into His rest.
5. Being Sedentary
While there is a time for rest, there is also time for movement. Being sedentary is definitely something we want our children to avoid this summer. With the preponderance of video games, TV, and other digital consumption, it is very easy for our teens to fall into patterns of being inactive.
During the pandemic, teens saw a significant increase in obesity. With the closing of schools, isolation, increased stress, among other factors, children who were previously a healthy weight crept up into the obese category, and some who were previously obese went up in weight to severe obesity.
Encourage your teens to get out and move. Early in the morning and late evening are great times for walking. Make it a family affair by working out together. Offer to purchase your teen a new workout outfit to get them motivated. Find a fitness app that has routines they enjoy. Take advantage of neighborhood community centers that offer access to amenities at little or no cost. Some fitness facilities are offering free summer membership to teens.
With your gentle guidance, your teen is set to have a summer of moments that matter while carefully steering clear of the things to avoid.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Rawpixel
Tyra Lane-Kingsland is a speaker, Women’s Ministry Director and author of the book Purposeful Parenting. She enjoys facilitating the classes she’s developed on parenting and Health & Wellness. It is her assertion that health is wealth and believes that optimal health is achieved through proper nourishment, rest and exercise. Tyra is an attentive wife and mother of six. Knowing that God causes all things to work together for good, she is on a passionate pursuit to see women inspired to live fully!