Be open to negotiating the “must”.
As every summer, there are going to be some non-negotiable things when it comes to how young people spend their days. Young people may need to get jobs, take on tasks, or do an academic brush up. Required activities can certainly be part of a recreational summer, but if possible, let the teens have their say in the details.
Ava Vestergaard, a 17-year-old senior at Sunset High School in Portland, Oregon, has some money to go to college but she’s really hoping for a job that will help fill her emotional tank after an exhausting academic year. “If there is a job I like, I enjoy the work and get to know my employees.” To her, a job that is enjoyable is worth a lot more in the long run than a job that pays a few dollars an hour more but does little of what she thinks is restorative.
And of course, ambitious, self-improving activities can also fit into the bill, as long as they are more sought-after than prescribed. Ezekiel Salama, 17, of Shelbyville, Kentucky, can’t wait to attend Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs, a selective summer program for teenagers in Kentucky. He expects his constructive summer plans to make him fresher than ever for the coming school year.
That means everyone has different emotional attitudes. What one person stimulates, another person can use up. Should a teen be fortunate enough to make some decisions about how to spend their summer, adults may be able to help by adjusting to how much and what they want to do. If you can find that your teen is really eager to learn a new language, start a business, or write a novel, stay out of her way. However, if you feel that she is working out a penalty enhancement program in a fearful attempt to compensate for a shortened school year, you can invite her to reconsider that approach so as not to risk returning to school exhausted than she is left it.
Similarly, parents may have concerns of their own that their teenage boy has fallen academically behind this year. But if the school has not called for intervention, it may be best to let it go.
Don’t let guilt ruin the recovery.
Given that the pandemic has raised expectations of what teens should achieve, teens themselves may feel uncomfortable about making recovery a priority this summer. “Covid did a lot of nothing,” said Kari Robinson, 14 years old, of Evanston, Illinois. “I think I might feel a little guilty about using my summer freedom to relax.” Help your young people look beyond this mindset. The point of recovery is not to relax, but to grow. And when downtime is full of guilt, that growth will suffer.
Don’t underestimate the value of what you turn to – even if it’s “just hanging around” – as you go through the quiet work of rebuilding.