When Kids Get Bored, Trouble can start: Summer Success Tips for Parents

Your kids have been in school all year, regularly engaged in activities. Then summer hits and suddenly, they have a lot of free time. Whatever age your children are, it’s important that you recognize that you are not responsible for keeping them entertained all the time. Nor are you able to keep a watch eye on them so that they’re safe all summer long. But the challenge is, when kids get bored, trouble can start. Here are some strategies for you to create a success plan for the various age groups that will help make the summer a success for everyone, including you!

Your College Kid Has Changed

They’ve been away from home for what seems like a long time. Then they come back, and you start noticing changes. Firstly, remember that you’re getting a different person who’s matured and had new life experiences. A change is to be expected. This alone can cause a lot of discord between parents and kids. From their perspective, they had all this freedom, but now that they’re home again they don’t have as much. Hold space for the fact that the kid that you sent away is now more like a young adult and let’s face it: you may not be the same as when they left either. Hopefully you’ve been working on creating a life for yourself and your partner that doesn’t depend on caretaking and kids. If you’ve been sitting and waiting all year for them to come home, this may be something you want to look at on your own.  

Pay attention to what’s happening and any unhealthy changes you may notice, but also give them some space. If you notice unhealthy behaviors, follow your instincts, and consider reaching out for help, especially if you suspect substances are involved.

Since it’s probably not okay with you if they hang out in the basement playing video games all summer, work with your college kid to develop a plan based on your family’s values. How can you help them feel productive and purposeful, whether that’s having a job, volunteering, reading books, or helping around the house?

Another helpful suggestion is to do an “expectation reset”. While away at college, your child has had the freedom of being an adult without all the responsibilities. This situation can be tricky to navigate when returning to the home environment. Old rules and boundaries may not be appropriate anymore, so new ones must be created. Talk about things like curfew, house chores, etc. It’s important to set clear expectations and have agreements. You can create this new structure with them, giving them a say in the process so that it’s collaborative and gives them a voice. Our family coaches at Feinberg Consulting have a lot of experience working with families to come up with strategies that align families and give all involved a voice towards a shared outcome.

Keeping your High School Kids Busy

High school kids still need a little structure and guidance. Brainstorm ideas of things they can do, letting them follow their interests. Maybe encourage them to take some lessons in something they want to pursue or improve at. Some parents encourage their kids to get academic support over the summer if some area of study has been particularly challenging, but also make sure they have time to decompress. Socializing is a big part of their life at this age and can be a great way for them to spend their free time. Supporting this is important but requires doing so with trust while also keeping your radar up.  While it’s always best to know who their friends are, you won’t be able to can’t always control this at this age. One helpful tip is to be curious. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about different social situations. Some parents might need support navigating the tricky balance of trusting their high schooler, while still being their protector. Again, this where a family coach can bring valuable insights and guidance by helping parents support in a way that’s effective and appropriate.

Continually Assess How It’s Going

It’s essential to continually assess how things are going and re-adjust if they aren’t working. Just because you agreed to something at the beginning of the summer doesn’t mean that if it’s not working, you can’t pause and introduce something different. It can be a powerful lesson for kids to learn that something can be altered if it isn’t working. It can teach them that change is possible.

Please find time to connect as a family, whether it’s a hike, a family trip, game nights, or camping. Lead by example and show your kids that things are worth doing that don’t involve a screen or a cell phone. Remember that if you always look at your phone or computer, they will follow suit.

Know that it’s okay to have some unstructured time but watch for signs of a problem such as lack of motivation, increased irritability, or erratic behavior that seems out of character. For example, if your college kid has been in the basement for a month, playing video games and you suspect that they are smoking pot, you likely have a problem that will need to be addressed. But how? Healthy communication that involves expressing your care and your concerns is usually most effective. In addition to this, you also want to be able to present some type of plan or solution that can be implemented. Because these types of conversations can be difficult, professional support can be immensely valuable.

Summer is a time where great memories are made. We hope you’ll make this summer memorable for you and everyone in your family. And let’s face it, we all need the downtime that the next few months will offer. But with downtime comes possible challenges. Feinberg Consulting specializes in offering solutions to family challenges, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

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