Be open to negotiating the "must".
As every summer, there are going to be some non-negotiators when it comes to how young people spend their days. Teens may need to find a job, do chores, or do an academic brush up. Required activities can certainly be part of a recreational summer, but if possible, let the teens have their say in the details.
Ava Vestergaard, a 17-year-old senior at Sunset High School in Portland, Oregon, has some money to go to college but she's really hoping for a job that will help fill her emotional tank after an exhausting academic year. “If there's a job I like, I enjoy the job and I get to know my co-workers.” For them, a job that is satisfactory may be worth a lot more in the long run than one that costs a few dollars an hour paid more but offers little of what it restores.
And of course ambitious, self-improving endeavors can also take this into account, as long as they are more wanted than prescribed. Ezekiel Salama, 17, of Shelbyville, Kentucky, can't wait to attend Governor's School for Entrepreneurs, a selective summer program for teenagers in Kentucky. He expects his constructive summer plans for the coming school year to make him fresher than ever.
That means everyone has different emotional attitudes. What one person stimulates, another person can use up. Should a teen be fortunate enough to make some decisions about how to spend their summer, adults may be able to help by adjusting to how much and what they want to do. If you find that your teen is genuinely eager to learn a new language, start a business, or write a novel, avoid them. However, if you feel that she is working out a penalty enhancement program in a fearful attempt to compensate for a shortened school year, you can invite her to reconsider that approach so as not to risk returning to school exhausted than she is left it.
Similarly, parents may have concerns of their own that their teenage boy has fallen academically behind this year. However, if the school has not called for intervention, it may be best to let it go.
Don't let guilt ruin the recovery.
Given that the pandemic has raised expectations of what teens should achieve, teens themselves may feel uncomfortable about making recovery a priority this summer. "Covid did a lot of nothing," said Kari Robinson, 14 years old, of Evanston, Illinois. "I think I might feel a little guilty about using my summer freedom to relax." Help your young people get out of this mindset. The point of recovery is not to relax, but to grow. And when downtime is full of guilt, that growth will suffer.
Don't underestimate the value of anything you turn to – even if it's "just hanging out" – as you go through the quiet work of rebuilding.