It doesn’t matter how many books, screens, games, or friends your teen may have, from time to time, they are bound to utter, “I’m bored!”
Or perhaps you’re familiar with its close cousin—nonstop zombie-scrolling on their phones. The summer season, with its longer days and unstructured routines, may make teens even more likely to experience boredom.
“School-aged children and teenagers spend nine months a year in a school environment that brings overwhelming amounts of social pressures, academic pressures, lack of sleep, and provides a highly structured routine,” explains Vaune Kopeck, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist at Sheppard Pratt. “Teenagers often complain about having no free time during the school year, but too much free time during the summer! This disconnect leads to boredom in the summer months.”
What can parents do to help their teen thrive in the summer months?
Watch and wait.
It’s OK to give your teens some time to decompress and enjoy a well-deserved break from the rigors of the school year. Take some time during the first week of break to watch what your teen does with their time. This will provide clues about their activity level, interests, need for increased or decreased level of structure, and potential for boredom.
Help, but don’t “over” help!
Ultimately, you should aim to help them enjoy a summer break with a combination of relaxation, social engagement, productive activity, and unstructured time by themselves.
“Your role as a parent is to prepare your children with the skills to take their place in society as a productive, healthy, and happy person,” explains Kopeck. “If a parent spends too much time scheduling their teenager’s time, then they will not learn to do it for themselves. Unstructured time and even being ‘bored’ can lead to greater creativity, problem-solving skills, increased self-motivation, and an opportunity to explore and increase the variety of interests.”
Foster personal responsibility.
Summer offers a great opportunity to increase teens’ level of responsibility and improve certain skills. Engagement in productive activities such as work, chores, volunteering, academics, or sports camps can teach responsibility and good work habits, improve time management, and build confidence and self-reliance.
Create a routine.
Ultimately, routines are the easiest way to help teens keep track of what they need to do and when they have earned a rest. Routines can alleviate anxiety by offering a roadmap for that day’s expectations. Routines also help teens maintain a consistent diet and exercise regimen, complete chores and activities, and foster social connection with others.
Bored No More
Productive uses of time during the adolescent years can increase their confidence, skill development, and self-reliance. In contrast, too much unproductive time may make teens more likely to engage in risky behaviors and activities, and potentially experience a decline in their mental health. Establishing routines that include a balance of rest, leisure, and productive activity is important to maintain mental health in the summer months and all year long.