Summer can be challenging for families. This year, many parents and teens are faced with a unique and unpredictable set of circumstances as we all face the changing COVID-19 landscape together. To help families and their teens succeed this summer, we’ve rounded up seven simple yet powerful approaches to help foster fun, growth and mental wellness in any household.
During the school year, families rely on structure. When you don’t have as many obligations, sticking with routines that work for your family is even more important to help everyone stay on the same page. One simple way to maintain routines is by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. While it may seem trivial, sleep is one of the most important components of mood and emotional regulation. Another simple way to maintain routines is by enjoying one meal together each day. Sharing a meal at a similar time is day is not only grounding for teens, but also helps foster connection the entire family. Plus, it’s a great way for each family member to check-in, touch base and share updates.
For adolescents to become healthy, autonomous adults it is important that they have the opportunity to cultivate self-governance and the ability to feel, think and behave independently. This summer, invite your teen to express their autonomy through simple, fun tasks. One great way to empower your teen is by trusting him or her to choose a dinner recipe and write the grocery list. Then, by following your teen’s lead, cook together as a family. This is a great way to boost joy and connectedness while allowing your teen to take ownership of a family routine. At the end of the day, relationships are all about process. It’s less about the taste of the meal, or the ingredients used, but the process of spending time together with a shared goal in mind.
Manage Time Creatively
Time management is essential for teens to master. As seasons change, semesters end and new journeys begin, we are all challenged to adapt and reorganize ourselves, but this is not something that comes naturally. Summer is a great opportunity to teach our young ones to effectively manage their time. Invite your teen to pick out a fun calendar, white board, bulletin board, markers, post-its, or anything they can use to create structure for themselves during the summer months. When you involve your teen in the process, they are more invested to practice. Then, help them design a morning routine, evening routine or even a weekly goal for themselves. Follow up with them at the end of the day or the end of the week and help them track their success.
Set Summer Goals
Creating summer goals as a family or encouraging your teen to choose goals for themselves is another great way to boost autonomy while fostering connectedness. Goals can be written in a list or collaged in a vision board. By engaging in the process of goal setting, teens learn how to manage expectations while improving self-esteem and frustration tolerance. Use this as an opportunity to show your teen how monthly goals can be translated into weekly and daily goals, and how setting rewards for attaining your most ambitious goals can help you stay motivated.
In a world full of technology, there are many platforms available that can help boost connection with those near and far. Take time this summer to play your teen’s favorite video game with them, create a shared family music playlist, start a family group text for mem-sharing or pick a show to watch together. Not only does engaging in shared experiences foster bonding, but also provides a new topic for conversation during dinner, especially for families that struggle to have lighter-topic conversations.
Set Electronic Curfews
Technology can be a wonderful platform to maintain connections, however it can also rob us from moments of shared joy and attention. Setting electronic curfews at dinner time or using the famous “phones in a bucket” technique during designated family times can help adults and teens stay fully and meaningfully engaged with one another.
When we protect and promote our own wellbeing, we help the entire family. This summer, stay connected with your favorite sources of support whether that takes the form of self-care, therapy, support groups or virtual meet-ups with friends. Summer months can be challenging, but with the right activities to foster engagement and growth, successful summers can set the tone for family relationships for years to come!