Summer is here! You know what that means? Longer days, no school, freedom from the confines of homework and school rules, luscious days at the beach, reveling in sun and surf, long hikes in the hills and of course, less direct parental supervision. It also portends some boredom-filled days, which can be a recipe for impending degeneracy. Adolescent experimentation with drugs, alcohol, sex, and other high-risk activities tend to rise in the summer months. The temptation to experiment with the verboten is seductive: parents are at work, medicine cabinets are full, and there’s really no one to check in with.
Once again, it’s time to have the ubiquitous sit-down with your teen, and have an open-book discussion about some of these issues. As I wrote previously, our capacity as parents to be transparent about our own experiences is invaluable. We have the ability to impart some useful information if we’re willing to be honest, regardless of our plummeting coolness factor. Mark Twain described the fissure in adolescent intellectual reasoning quite accurately when he said: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.” It’s not so much that we don’t know anything, as much as our ideologies as parents just appear stuffy and unfair to the burgeoning youth. As teens, pushing boundaries and garnering bits of emotional and physical freedom versus blindly following along are part of the maturation process, as frustrating as that may be for adults. The thing is, it’s better to deal with any problems right when they happen, and not when the first Fall report card comes in.
Summer should be fun. It’s a wonderful time to explore and learn new things, while garnering some independence along the way. So, how can we ensure they have fun while we stay sane and they stay safe?
- Know who your child’s friends are. If you don’t, make an effort to get to know them.
- Ask your child to check in with you regularly.
- Make sure that you see them on a regular basis. In other words, if your teen spends more time away than at home, time to investigate.
- Remember family dinners? Have at least two a week.
- Talk to your kids. Find out what they’re doing, what their interests are. I can’t emphasis this one enough.
Just because your kids aren’t in school for a spell doesn’t mean you get a break from parenting. Be present for your kids. Let them know you love them, but also give them a little space to come into their own.