Summer can be a breathe of fresh air for both teens and their parents who have survived the grueling, hectic schedule of the school year. In a previous post, I discuss the realities of stress that accompany adolescence, often due to the sheer number of changes and challenges that occur during this time of growing up. So, of course summer can and should be a relief for the student (and hopefully for the whole family).
However, in working with families, I commonly hear of how in this Age of Technology – the primary source of entertainment involves being online. Along with typical social media outlets (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, & Youtube), gaming online as well as marathon t.v. watching (Netflix) can take up an overwhelming number of hours for pre-teens and teens during the lazy summer days in between school years.
There is nothing wrong with having fun online or watching television. However, what we find is that when entire days are filled with nothing but being “plugged-in” and depending on a screen, a person’s mood tends to go south. Staying stationary for long periods of time, especially when isolated, tends to cause feelings of sluggish sadness over time. The reality is that getting up, moving, and doing something – even if for only a portion of the day – leads to feeling more accomplished, motivated, and typically better about oneself. In short, having fun online is like candy. Too much of a good thing can turn sour and leave a person aching in the end.
Below I’ve included a few suggestions for alternatives to time spent online or in front of the t.v. The activities below are relatively budget-friendly and available regardless of the age and stage of the child or teen:
1. Relax by the pool. If you live in a neighborhood with a pool (or close to a community pool), this option is perfect. Easy access for families allows for a relaxing alternative to being “plugged-in” with the added bonus of a chance to get some Vitamin D. Being outside in the summer can be challenging – especially with the kind of heat we have in Georgia…being near the pool allows for a quick relief from the sun.
2. Join a team. While competitive school teams lasts throughout the school year, the summer can be a chance for your child or teenager to have fun interacting with other peers in a sport without the pressure of intense competition. Places like the local YMCA provide a variety of activities, including basketball, martial arts, swimming, soccer, and dance classes.
3. Volunteer. Volunteering can be good for the community and the young person engaging to better it. Helping those in need can teach teens important lessons of compassion, humility, and putting others first. Nursing homes, homeless shelters, animal rescue centers, and so many other facilities are in need of volunteers. Websites like Volunteer Match & All For Good can match a person with opportunities to volunteer in their area.
4. Consider camp. Day camp and away camps provide fun opportunities for children and teens to experience what it is like to get out of their “comfort zone” – to be in a new place with new people and learn to tackle fun challenges in a safe environment. In this way, going to camp cultivates time for the young person to grow in independence and confidence. Camps exists for a variety of interests and are not only limited to younger children. A listing of camps in Atlanta can be found here.
5. Read. It doesn’t have to be a classic novel – like the ones you read for English class. How about a fun mystery novel or the latest comic book? Unlike watching a movie or television show, reading allows a person to more fully engage in the world of the characters and enjoy a story in a different way. Take a field trip to your local Barnes & Noble, peruse the aisles, and find something that peeks your interest.
6. Get creative. Drawing, painting, & crafting: only a few ways to let your creative juices flow this summer. Maybe getting creative for you looks more like writing a song/ playing music or choreographing a dance to your favorite new song. If you enjoy being artistic, consider setting aside specific time in the day to invest creatively.
7. Learn a new skill. Knowing how to cook, change a flat tire, or mow the lawn – these may sound like chores (and they very well may be) but they are also important skills that every individuals needs to have before entering the “real world”. Teaching these skills also provides an opportunity for parents to bond with their teen and pass along important tools. Consider making it fun by getting creative. For example, determine a certain night of the week as “their night to cook.” They get to plan the menu and together you shop for ingredients to make the meal. You are there to help but they are primarily in charge of cooking the dinner. Added bonus: supporting their independence in this way creates an environment for self-confidence to grow.
8. Schedule game nights with the family. Puzzles, cards, board games – the options are endless. Plan a night at least once a week for your family to get together and play a game. Simple and fun.
9. Go for walks. Growing up, my family loved to go on walks together. It was a great time to get some fresh air, exercise, and talk about the day. Take a stroll around the neighborhood or visit a park with a nice walking path. You’ll feel great afterwards.
These are just a few ideas – but you may know of even better ways to unplug and have fun. Hope you and your family’s summer is a time of re-cooperating and relaxing!
Learn more about Lydia Minear, MA, LAPC’s counseling practice @ East-West Psychotherapy Associates here.