by Mark Gregston
Welcome to summertime!
The general consensus used to be when summertime rolled around, it was the duty of every teenager in America to secure a job so they could build up a nice little nest egg for that new car they’d been eyeing, or for some other wish they had. For me, my teenage summers were spent learning all about the things I didn’t want to do—like baling hay on a hot August day in Oklahoma. But like everything, the wheels of progress keep turning and times change, and with them, so have my perspectives on teenage summertime employment.
Everything about our culture today is intense. From the moment our children enter this world, the constant push for them to be better, climb higher, and do more begins. There has to be a rest period, and so for me, I think summertime is the best time to do that. Our teens have heavy lives these days, so they need to relearn how to have some innocent fun and reconnect to their imaginative, creative sides. Here are three surefire ways to make summer enjoyable for everyone.
The first thing you can do to help your teen this summer is to lighten up. They have spent the school year so focused on achieving more and doing more, let’s not make everything so serious. It’s been my experience that the homes that are too serious are the ones where the kids want to be somewhere else. There are only a handful of things that require a serious talk, so don’t make them the norm. If, and when, you need to be serious, be sure to incorporate laughter where you can in the middle of those hard discussions.
Laughter lets them know the relationship is still intact, no matter how difficult the subject, and laughter can actually be a form a worship. Laughter lets everyone hear the confidence you have that shows God is still in control regardless of what’s happening around you. At Heartlight, I’ve seen for myself that a teen’s heart will swing wide open if you can learn to laugh while facing adversity. When you learn to not be serious all the time, their ears will be primed and ready to hear what you have to say in the future.
Find some ways to make those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer come alive for your kids. Plan a weekly movie night. Or sleep-in Saturdays for the month of July. Or plan to paint the barn every Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t matter what activity you choose, the point is to find ways to connect with your kids, and to engage them in things where you’re learning and living life together.
Provide a Place of Rest
In Matthew 11: 28, Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and you will find rest for your souls.” Like adults, teens need a place they can escape to where relationships run deep, and the noise of the busy, ever-demanding world are drowned out. If your home is not exactly an oasis for your teen, discover ways that you can move in that direction. When teens are moving from one pressured activity to the next, there’s no time to be a kid or to truly take a break.
Be sure to cut back on the amount of correction you’re throwing their way. Be affirming, and give them plenty of opportunities to communicate with you and the rest of your family. And never ever, quit trying to provide a restful sanctuary for your teen. By going the distance, you’ll deepen your relationship with your teen.
Rest doesn’t always have to be lounging around the house doing nothing. Rest can be found on a walk, or a trip to the mall, or on a vacation with your teen. What I’ve found to be helpful and true is scheduling my time to keep my relationships fresh. There are many of you who think you might not be able to afford to do something fun with your teen, but I say you can’t afford not to do it!
Listen More, Speak Less
We live in a world where everyone likes to hear themselves talk, talk, talk, and many of us have learned to listen to respond, instead of listening to understand. Scripture tells us, “He that gives an answer before he hears … is a fool.” It’s a harsh statement, but one that’s so very true.
Your teen, and every other teen around the world, is dying for someone to listen. Since before they were born, they’ve been listening to us drone on about one thing or another. Now it’s our turn to listen to them.
Communication is a two-way street, so don’t hog the road. Think about how you can say what you need to say with the least amount of words, then sit back and wait for them to open up. When you listen to your teen, you’re communicating that they have something of value to say, and that they are worthy of your attention.
Mom, Dad … do you remember a summer in your high school years that was fun and relaxing? Do you remember how the lazy days of summer gave you a sense of refreshment and encouragement? A time when the pressures of school and your social world weren’t so overwhelming? Well, your teens want that same experience, too. I would encourage you to make this summer a season of relationship. Make it a time when you and your teen can reestablish the relationship that you’ve always had, a time to reassure your child that no matter how intense the school year can be—both academically and socially, there will always be a place of fun and relationship in your home. I would also encourage you to do make this summer one that is magnificent, meaningful, and memorable for you both.