Guest Contributor Amy Kelly

Summertime is a double-edged sword. On one side, teenagers look forward to a break from school, sunshine, vacations and free time. Parents, on the other side, dread the nightly curfew battles, constant coming and goings of activities and an increased chance of drug and alcohol use.

Summertime for teenagers means free time, but most parents still have to go to work, which leaves many teenagers to fend for themselves.  Some teenagers may be perfectly safe to stay at home alone, but those who do not have anything to do during the day are much more likely to get into trouble than teens who are busy. During the summer, teen alcohol use increases by 40%, substance abuse rises by over 70%, not to mention the increase in teenage car accidents.

Keeping teens busy is one of the best ways to keep them safe this summer. You might want to consider requiring your son or daughter to get a summer job. This would help boost their self-esteem, add to (or start) their resume, learn the value of work and they would be held accountable for their time. If your teenager is looking ahead to college, perhaps there is an internship opportunity with your place of employment, or a nearby office that would be available for the summer.

While encouraging work can be very beneficial for your teenager, keep in mind that summer should also be fun. When the work is done, try planning a few things you can do together to keep your teenager busy while boosting your relationship.

  1. If you have a teenager who enjoys sports, get involved in a summer league. As a parent, you can volunteer to be an umpire or help with the team.
  2. Plan a weekend movie night. Head to the video store and each of you choose one favorite movie to watch together, you both might be surprised to find a new favorite flick!
  3. Game night. Most teens don’t get too excited over Monopoly, so try it their way. Have them teach you how to play their favorite video game and battle it out on a big screen or projector. They will most likely get a kick out of just watching you try.
  4. If you have a crafty or creative teen, pull down your boxes of family photos and let her get to work. Allow her to scrapbook her childhood anyway she would like. She might want to make a collage or a photo album. This can be a great opportunity to talk about memories together and create something special. If you’re worried about her cutting up pictures, allow her to make copies of them first.
  5. Home improvement projects. Allow teens to help with projects they might enjoy doing like painting a room or fixing up an old piece of furniture. Teens who enjoy working with their hands might enjoy the opportunity to make something their own creation.  If possible, allow your teenager to even make some changes to their own room. Remember, you can always re-paint later.

Many parents wrongly assume that teens will roll their eyes and look the other way at the proposition of spending time together, but this is generally not the case. Don’t make it a chore, and try things at their level. They are probably eager to spend time together. After all, next summer, they might be traveling across the country to their new dorm room.