This summer a whole new set of parents will experience, for the first time, their young teens at home and off school for three whole months. Teens will be so excited, but many parents may be questioning the logic of the Department of Education and their annual three month holiday for teenagers. They are still very young so they have to be monitored and cared for but how can you do this for three months and hold down a job?
Here are ’10 ways to’ support you and your teen to have an enjoyable summer:
- Firstly, do not panic. You have worked hard preparing your child for life. This freedom is the first real test of how responsible they can be. It may be absolutely necessary to leave them at home for part of the day while you get to work. Talk with them about keeping safe without causing fear. When they are at home go over safety rules with them. Make sure they answer their phone and check in with you. Ask them to call you if they are going out or if anyone comes over. This way at least you are aware of what is happening.
- It is all about demonstrating responsible behaviour. Once you see them act in this way it will support you to move forward. If they cannot be trusted alone, you will need to look at childcare options for them. They will not like having to go to a minder but if they are not capable of being home alone for a period of time you have no choice for now. Let them moan that you are being over protective and don’t trust them, that is to be expected.
- Aside from childminding options, check in with their friends’ parents. There are likely to be some parents at home at times. If you arrange teen dates, it could work well for everyone. Parents rather young people hang out in small groups. Talk directly to the parents yourself about any plans.
- Talk with relatives and see if they can go on holidays to anyone for a few days, here and there. It is good for them to get to know cousins and other relatives a little better. It would also give them some added independence to do this without you. I am sure you can return the favour at some stage.
- Encourage your teen to make a plan of action for the summer. What do they enjoy? Can they participate in sports, join a book club or some hobby group? Three months would be great opportunity for them to really pursue an activity they enjoy when they have time to do it. It would get them up and out of the house and keep them busy and motivated.
- Allow your teens to rest. Try to accept that teens are different to adults. They like to sleep late in the day, watch TV, listen to music, spend all day on their phone and sit in their pyjamas until dinner time. They can’t get a job yet so they have the luxury for a very short period in their life to enjoy doing nothing. Once they maintain the boundaries and the rules of the home they are not harming anyone. Of course they should also help with household chores as usual. Allow them dictate a little what they would like to do.
- Talk with them about what is appropriate for them to do and where they can hang out. Think about allowing them to travel on the bus alone, if you have not done so yet. It is scary to allow your child such freedom but unless you give them responsibilities you cannot expect them to learn. You prepare them for life by adding responsibilities layer by layer. You also get braver each day as you see them cope and make positive choices.
- It is not a good idea at this age to give teens the responsibility of looking after younger children. Be cautious and know that teens do not always have the patience and tolerance required to manage younger children. It may be a step too far to leave them home alone together. It may be better to look at other options around caring for younger children.
- Take time out with your teen this summer if you can. Get to know them as young people heading quickly towards adulthood. In a few years they will most likely have jobs and busier social lives, and parents will be far from important in their lives. Enjoy your last few summers with them.
- Try to think back to when you were their age. Don’t nag them and worry that their brains will freeze up over the summer with the lack of use. They will most likely be fine.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.