In the yearly cycle of the earth, summer is the time to enjoy the things that were grown in the spring. We have had an exhausting three years since the pandemic started in 2020 and I think everyone deserves some peace this summer, especially teenagers. I am seeing that teenagers are over-stimulated by all of their school, social, and family obligations and they need the next two and a half months to rest and calm their nervous systems. Students worked hard during the spring semester and there is no need for students to use this summer to get ahead by taking another class or getting an internship to build a resume for college. Instead, this summer should be used for rejuvenation and connecting with others.
Teenagers need more sleep and summer is the best time for teens to catch up on sleep and get back to a natural sleep cycle. I encourage parents to “sleep train” their teens this summer, much like they did when their children were babies and toddlers. Of course, this is easier said than done, but teenagers still need guidance from their parents when it comes to building habits that will benefit their health, and summer is a great time to put a sleep routine in place. Encourage teens to turn off electronics by 9:00 or 10:00PM and keep their tech devices out of the bedroom. It can take up to an hour to become desensitized from blue light screens, so reading a book or watching a low intensity show is much better for trying to fall asleep than scrolling through social media on a phone. My suggestion is to set a summer bedtime of 11:00PM for teens, and of course, if something fun comes up, go with the flow if a teenager is up later, but striving for a full 10 hours of sleep should be the summer goal. If possible, set any start times for appointments, or obligations for 10:00AM or later.
Buy-in from the teen is going to be important when putting a sleep schedule in place, and I have found that if you present the research, and the teenager understands their brain and the importance of rest for their development, this will help. Two great resources for this are Generation Sleepless, Chapter 6, by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright and The Teenage Brain, Chapter 5, by Frances Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt.
This summer let’s also encourage teens to connect with themselves and others. We know that this age group is feeling more isolated than ever, and with freer schedules in the summer, this is the time of year to encourage getting off screens and building relationships. Teens can go inward and connect with themselves in many different ways and they can use the summer to find what works best for them. Some people prefer to practice mindful meditation, others like to journal, or draw and do art. Movement in the forms of yoga, or going for a long run to think are both forms of kinesthetic reflection. Anything that is quiet and introspective is great to calm minds and learn about themselves.
As teenagers try to figure out who they are outside of their families, friends and social connections are critically important to their development. Going to a summer camp to learn something new or deepen an interest is a fun way to meet new people. Encouraging teens to take on a part time job is also a great leadership opportunity and can help build comradery among colleagues of all ages.
I also hope that families can spend time together and see relatives they have not seen in a few years. It is important for teens to find time to connect with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to develop an appreciation for where they come from.
This summer I am encouraging everyone to jump off the hamster wheel of productivity to rest, and make connections. Teens need the downtime in the summer to balance out the busy school year. Together we can model for teens how to take a break from being over scheduled to reset, and build inward and outward relationships. Let’s aim to stabilize our nervous systems over the summer so when summer turns to fall, teens can be fully ready to learn and grow in a new school year.
Happy summer, everyone! May it be restful, connected, and beautiful.