If you live or work with teens and tweens, you might know that pushing boundaries and testing limits is part of healthy development. Yet with summer almost here, some parents and folks who work with youth are concerned. More free time could potentially lead toward more high-risk behaviors and isolation from family and friends.
So how do we help our teens reset and prepare for success this summer and into the next school year? Therapists from our Multisystemic Therapy Program (MST) have some tips on how families can plan a smooth summer with their tweens and teens.
1. Create routine and structure
Youth thrive on routine and structure.
- Encourage a consistent sleep schedule.
- Provide daily chores or tasks for them to complete.
- Encourage your tween or teen to engage in learning every day. Whether it’s reading a book, listening to a podcast, or watching an educational YouTube video.
- Schedule activities like sports, clubs, camps, employment, volunteer opportunities, etc.
While it isn’t necessary to schedule your youth’s day minute-by-minute, having some structure will decrease boredom, provide something to look forward to, and reduce the overall risk of your youth getting into trouble.
2. Establish rules
Establish and enforce basic rules to reduce the potential for conflict in the home and the risk of negative behavior.
The most effective rules are:
- Clear: youth know exactly what is expected of them
- Enforceable: something that can be objectively verified
- Time-specific: ensure that there is a deadline
- Developmentally appropriate: matches your youth’s skills and abilities
A good example of an important rule to establish is curfew. Consider using legal curfew times based on your youth’s age.
Establish how much time your youth spends unsupervised. The less time your youth has on their own, the less likely they are to engage in negative behaviors.
Encourage compliance with the rules by tying them to meaningful rewards and consequences.
3. Encourage activities
Explore your youth’s interests, and look for opportunities to foster them in the community.
To get you started, here are a few local programs:
- Teen Teamworks, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board
- Comprehensive Arts Training and Employment for Youth, Juxtaposition Arts
- Summer Youth Employment Program, Tree Trust
- Apprenticeship Program, Urban Boat Builders
- Youth Programs, Urban Ventures
Youth programming is often available at community recreation centers, YMCAs, libraries, and schools. Your city or county may offer youth-specific programming, programs with incentives for youth, summer internships, or summer jobs.
4. Manage technology
It’s important to allow youth to have some screen time, but it’s also important to set limits.
- Establish downtime, a period of time when technology use is paused.
- Limit technology use during family meals and activities.
- Move computers, devices, and gaming consoles into shared living spaces to manage screen time more easily.
- Allow use of technology only after specified tasks or activities have been completed.
Many devices and apps offer features that can help you manage your youth’s use of technology.
Remember: youth live what they learn.
Do everything in your power to model healthy technology use by setting your own limits and taking breaks from screens. Spend this time engaging and connecting with your youth!
5. Practice self-care
Self-care is important for maintaining a healthy and happy family.
- Take a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness; deep breathing, meditation, or going for a walk can help you manage stress and improve your overall well-being.
- Practice (and model) healthy boundaries. Say “no” to commitments that will cause unnecessary stress.
- Spend time with friends and family who encourage and support you.
- It’s important to take breaks throughout the day to recharge and relax.
- Ask for help when you need it.
Remember, self-care is not selfish! It’s not only essential for your well-being, it’s one of the most important factors in helping you become the best caregiver you can be. By prioritizing self-care, you’ll have more energy (and patience) to care for your tween or teen.
How can I tell if my tween or teen’s behaviors are putting them at risk?
Youth who exhibit antisocial or delinquent behaviors may be putting themselves or others at risk. Warning signs to look out for include:
- Verbal or physical aggression
- Property destruction
- Stealing from home, school, or the community
- Leaving home without permission
- Not coming home on time
- Substance use
- Low school success
- Non-compliance with school
It might be time to seek support if you see an increase in one or more of the above behaviors and haven’t been able to change the behaviors on your own. If you are struggling with your tween or teen, reach out to therapists in our Multisystemic Therapy Program (MST) for additional help.
Our MST therapists are trained to empower caregivers with proven parenting strategies that keep kids aged 12 to 17 in school, out of trouble, and in the home. Families who complete the MST program find a high rate of success, with 9 out of every 10 families experiencing positive outcomes.
For more information on MST and other resources, reach out to Jennifer Heldt, MST Program Manager and Clinical Supervisor for The Family Partnership. Jennifer’s email is email@example.com and her phone number is 763-291-8198.