Help! A parent contacted me the other day concerning her recurring summer problem with her teenager. “I practically never see my teenager from June to September! They refuse to come to dinner, never speaks to us and they have wasted every summer since turning 13 with their friends; playing video games (doing who knows what else) and going to sleep when I am getting ready to go to work at seven in the morning! No amount of discussion will get them to change their ways”.
Just the facts, Ma’am: Researchers have recently discovered that while most adult’s melatonin levels (which help us fall asleep) start to be produced at 10 p.m., teenagers tend to begin producing the hormone at around 1 a.m. How much of this time difference is due to changing hormones and how much is due to the disruptive effect from the lights of computer monitors and TVs over-stimulating their minds? While the melatonin issue makes a good case for later start times in high school classes, it does not justify going to bed at seven in the morning.
Crisp or Mooshy. A teenage client of mine calls it the cereal effect. The less he would do during the summer, the more soggy his brain became making his September brain mooshy. The more he engaged in stimulating summer activities the more “crisp” his brain was when he hit the school season.
10 ways to a crisp brain for the new school term:
1. Three days a week (at around noon) some sports; weights, tai chi, ball hockey etc.
2. One day a week – (same time) a creative class; music; comedy class; writing; etc. (plus 15 minutes a day of unmonitored practice).
3. One day a week – personal power class; public speaking; sales technique etc;
4. One dinner a week – The teenager is in charge. They choose the meal and cook it as well. Help is welcomed but the teen is in charge. Same evening each week.
5. One topic a week – The teenager chooses the dinner-time discussion; any world event, idea or philosophy that interests them.
6. Weekends off! No time constraints from Friday night to Monday morning.
7. Space is the final frontier. Give them some.
8. Trips – they’re great! But give them one day off for every 3 days spent as a family.
9. Rethink the pod. Have them choose ways to change the look of their room that reflects the best of their positive interests.
10. 10 minutes a day – 5 days a week – some sort of mindful meditation.
You will end up with a teenager walking up around 11:00 am, five days a week, which, as most of you know, is pretty good for the summer.
One More Thing: Giving people the time to discover their own interests and to pursue them for self-growth is an opportunity that few people take the time to do “until they retire”. The best inspiration you can be to your teenager is to go after something that is personally rewarding for yourself. The more challenging, the better…… and let them see you sweat.