Setting boundaries for summertime
Finally, after making up for this winter’s snow days, school is out and summer is on.
Graduations from kindergarten, 5th grade, 8th grade, high school, and college are over. No more homework, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks, and no more early morning hustle to get everyone to school. Parents get a break from chauffeuring their kids from activity to activity. Everyone can kick back. It’s time to settle into the summer routine.
For the first week or so, some teens let their night owls fly and stay up to all hours watching movies, playing video games, and texting with their friends. They sleep till noon, making up for all of those short nights during the school year. Younger kids tend to be earlier risers. Hopefully, parents have organized their summer—taking advantage of recreation programs, day camps, and sprinkling in family vacations. It’s so much better for kids to be involved in summer activities that keep them busy and active.
Older teens benefit from having summer jobs. I was a stickler on this. Both of my daughters were expected to work during their junior and senior summers. It’s important for older kids to earn some of their own money and get acquainted with the world of work—something they will be doing for a long time. It’s great preparation for adult life and a rich learning experience. But I did help them find jobs—I used whatever connections I had to make it easier for them to get their feet in the door. Both worked at our local coffee shop, Zoka’s, when they were old enough. I knew the owner and was a regular customer. It turned into a great job for both of them and helped them earn money during school and college vacations.
So what can parents do to make this a great summer for everyone?
Have a family meeting to discuss expectations early on. Don’t wait for problems to arise. Get everyone together and discuss bedtimes, curfew, chores, and expectations. It’s fine to let a little line out—but don’t let go of the rope. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stay ahead of potential problems. Most of them are predictable.
Kids will nickel and dime you into bankruptcy. “Please—just five more minutes on my game.” “Let me stay out 15 minutes later!” “Let me stay up just 10 more minutes.” Sound familiar? Before you know it, 15 minutes is 1 hour and 10 minutes is 45 minutes. Kids are so good at arguing their position. They don’t need to go to law school. They’re natural attorneys when it comes to representing themselves.
Please, limit screen time. Sure, it’s fine to increase screen time during the summer vacation, but set limits and stick to them. Trust, but verify. Don’t let them sit in front of a screen all summer.
“But all my friends' parents don’t________.” Fill in the blanks. Why is it that everyone’s teenagers all have friends whose parents are more flexible, giving, and permissive than you? Since teens are so peer oriented, they think that we are too. I didn’t mind telling my teenagers that I could care less what their friend’s parents thought.
Emphasize safety. Helmets are non-negotiable, swimming needs to be supervised, and sun block is a given. These have to be drummed into their heads until they become habits. Teens need to let moms and dads know where they’re going and when they’re going to be home.
Have a safe, healthy, and wonderful summer!