Be open to negotiating the “must-dos”.
As every summer, there are going to be some non-negotiable things about the way young people spend their days. Teens may need to find a job, do chores, or do an academic brush up. Required activities can certainly be part of a recreational summer, but if possible, let teens get their hands on the details.
Ava Vestergaard, a 17-year-old graduate of Sunset High School in Portland, Oregon, has some money to go to college, but she really hopes for the kind of job that will help fill her emotional tank after a busy academic year. “If there’s a job I like, I enjoy the job and I get to know my colleagues.” To them, a job that is satisfactory may be worth a lot more in the long run than one that costs a few dollars an hour paid more but offers little of what it restores.
And of course, ambitious, self-improving endeavors can also meet the bill, as long as they are wanted more 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 for the coming school year to make him fresher than ever.
That means everyone has different emotional attitudes. What drives one can leave the other exhausted. Should an adolescent be fortunate enough to have some choices about how they spend their summer, adults may be able to help by adjusting to how much and what they want to do. If you find that your teen is genuinely eager to learn a new language, start a business, or write a novel, avoid them. But if you feel like she is developing a punitive improvement program to compensate for a slimmed-down school year, you might invite her to reconsider that approach so as not to risk feeling more exhausted again than she left.
Similarly, parents may have their own concerns that their teenage boy has fallen academically behind this year. But if the school hasn’t called for intervention, maybe it is best to drop it.
Don’t let guilt ruin recovery.
Given how much the pandemic has turned expectations of what teens should achieve, teens may feel uncomfortable even with the idea of 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 get out of this mindset. The point of recovery is not to relax, but to grow. And when downtime is steeped in guilt, that growth will suffer.
Don’t underestimate the value of what you are turning to – even if it is “just hanging out” – while you go through the quiet work of rebuilding.