Teens have been looking forward since Easter to almost 3 months of freedom and frolicking. On the other hand, you are dreading it! You imagine the worst. Hours of unsupervised time and a teen; what could possibly go wrong?! Your stress and anxiety builds as they are on their summer holidays. Camps and Gaeltachts cover a few weeks but what about the rest of the time available to them?

It is out of this fear, stress and anxiety that parents sometimes put in place too stringent a plan for their teen and give them very little choice in what they will be doing for the summer. Other parents may allow their child too much freedom. Both can cause arguments. Striking a balance is the key.

The aim of adolescence is to transition from being a child into a fully functioning and independent adult. Summer-time can present a really important opportunity for your teen to foster their identity, have new experiences, build positive relationships, learn responsibility and contribute positively to their community and all while enjoying themselves.

The secret to a peaceful and trouble-free summer is to collaborate with your teen. Facilitate them in making their own plan within limits. Part of a teen’s development is being able to make his/her own decisions. By collaborating on the development of a plan with your teen you are relieving your own stress and anxiety while enabling the healthy development of life-skills for your child. Sometimes the tendency is for parents to take over the planning and while there are good intentions in doing this it can serve to de-skill your teen in the long-run.

Before developing the summer plan with your teen it is important that you are clear about what your ideas are. Do you want them to get exercise? Do you want them to enhance their academic skills? Do you want them to carry out housework? Are they old enough to work? Can they volunteer in a local group? Limits regarding activities need to be discussed also – TV, smartphone/tablet use, video gaming, curfews, where your teen can go when they are out and when they need to contact you. Your teen probably has very different ideas about how to spend their summer. This is why it is wise to sit down and devise a plan that accounts for both sets of needs.

Although your teen has probably commenced their summer holidays already, it is not too late to devise a plan now. The tips below will help you negotiate a plan that is fair to all and allows your teen to build their communication skills, self-efficacy skills and contribute to positive self-esteem while relieving your stress and worry as a parent.

  1. Make a list; Prioritise what you see as being important and what you are willing to be flexible on. This will allow you to be able to negotiate.
  1. Set a time to talk; Set the scene by stating that you want to find a solution that suits you both. “I am conscious that we have not spoken about what you will be doing for the summer and I want to find a solution that suits us both”.
  1. Listen; Listen to your teen without interrupting, judging, dismissing, criticising or using sarcasm. Repeat what they say “you are saying that you would like to be able to lie-in until 11am and stay out until 10pm” without comment.
  1. Express your view in a calm and clear way; “I want you to be able to see your friends. I also need to know where you are and when you will be back so tell me how we might ensure both”
  1. Do not negotiate on issues of safety; “I do not want you walking home alone, I will collect you at 9.30pm at the cinema”. Be firm: “It does not matter what others think, I will pick you up at 9.30pm”.
  1. Know when to take a break; If things become heated, take a break and come back to it later when you are both calmer.
  1. Compromise; Show that you are willing to compromise by asking what your teen thinks is reasonable and work from there.
  1. Brainstorm collaboratively; Facilitate a brainstorming session if your teen is stuck. Perhaps they can kill two birds with one stone: volunteering with a group that carries out activities they enjoy and is social.
  1. Restate the decision and consequences that has been reached; When a decision is reached be clear, restate it and write it down. Agree on what the consequences of breaking the agreement will be e.g. “if you stay out past the curfew that length of time is deducted from the following night”.
  1. Review; Agree that you will both sit down and review how the plan is working for you both on a specific date.
  1. Finish the discussion positively; End the discussion positively even of it has been difficult “Thank you for taking the time to talk it through with me, it shows me that you are a mature person”.

If you would like to know more about parenting teens or are concerned about your son or daughter you can contact Smart Psychology by visiting www.smartpsychology.ie or by calling 021 4910145.