Summer Vacation Is Almost Here – Do You Know Where Your Teen Will Be?
Picture this: your teenager sitting on the couch, devouring bags of chips and gallons of soda, eyes glazed from hours of playing video games, day after day for months on end. What could this nightmare be? Summer vacation – if you don’t make plans now.
For adolescents, summer is the highlight of the year – no responsibilities, sleeping in until noon, a kitchen full of food, and the sweet smell of independence. Many parents work full-time throughout the summer; some go on vacation and leave teenagers with an easygoing relative or friend; and some older teens are even left alone when parents are away. All of the structure and scheduling that occurs during the school year turns into unadulterated freedom in the summer.
For parents, the start of summer means the countdown to September is on. As yet another school year comes to a close, parents are making last-minute plans to keep their teens occupied for three long months. Sure, a few weeks may be spent on a family vacation, some teens may attend summer school, and others may take up a new hobby. But that still leaves hours each day and days each week when teens are home with nothing to do. How many days can you invent amusing activities and outings that will keep your teen out of trouble?
With less structure and adult supervision, the summer is ripe with opportunities for teens to fall into a bad crowd, experiment with drugs or alcohol, or get into other forms of mischief. If your teen has been struggling during the school year, more trouble may be awaiting you in summer. There’s a reason for the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s tools.” Teens are looking for adventure, risk, and excitement, especially in the summer. Being bored at home is the exact opposite of what they need. They will find a way to take risks and live adventurously with or without your support and guidance.
When Going Away Is the Only Way
There’s no question your teenage child is dealing with peer pressure. It goes with the territory. But peer pressure can take many forms, both positive and negative. Certainly, every parent fears the gang banger giving drugs to their child or the rebellious “cool kid” persuading their child to smoke, but peer pressure can also come in milder forms like wearing mismatched socks to imitate the popular girls or taking certain electives to be in class with friends. Because most peer pressure happens at school, it can be beyond a parent’s immediate control.
Most experts advise that the best way for teens to deal with negative peer pressure is to walk away. But how can a child walk away if he still goes to the same school or lives in the same neighborhood as the bad influence? If you are worried about the impact of a negative peer group, sometimes getting your child in a safe educational environment away from home offers the best chance for change.
The Pressure to Belong
Whether your child is popular or unpopular, getting straight As or barely making Ds, adolescence is a time when kids want nothing more than to “fit in” or “belong” to a social group. Teens will do things they know are wrong because they don’t want to be left out, lose friends, or get teased at school. Research shows that a child’s desire to be accepted by his peers is one of the strongest motivating forces during adolescence. In one study, a student who knew the correct answer to a teacher’s question gave the wrong answer just because everyone else in the class gave the wrong answer.
During adolescence, it is natural for teens to turn to their peers for recognition and support rather than their families. This brings them one step closer to independence. By the high school years, most teenagers report feeling closer to friends than parents. But the wrong group of friends can impair a child’s good judgment and turn cautious teens into risk-takers. A child may risk being grounded, damaging her health, or even facing jail time just to fit in. Sometimes teens will change their values, the way they dress, or who they hang out with, depending on what is considered socially acceptable in their group. If your teen associates with people who are using drugs, ditching school, stealing, or otherwise acting out, there’s a good chance your child is doing the same.