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Teenage Summer Boredom: Parents Beware

By Lisa Lipton, MFT
May 27, 2010

Help your teenager ward off “summer boredom” and avoid the “summer effect” by finding structured activities for him or her to do.

Last summer I was at my local park with my two year old son and came across a group of teenage boys and girls. They seemed harmless enough; clean-cut, dressed appropriately, respectful to the park property and other people at the park.  At the time I was working at a therapeutic boarding school for girls ages 10-16, as a Therapist, so I tended to pay close attention to teenage behavior, both out of curiosity and for the benefit of gaining additional professional knowledge.  Things started out innocent enough….the girls playing on the swings and chatting…the boys and girls talking in a group. But it didn’t seem to take very long for the novelty of the park to wear off…and boredom to set in.

I could hear them trying to come up with some things to do…walk to the store (“My feet hurt”) Hang out at your house (“My mom will be home”)….ideas were quickly shot down for one reason or another. I particularly played close attention to the girls, who actually seemed quite passive during this conversation, as the boys discussed a plan of action. One of the boys got on his cell phone and called a friend. Excitedly, he let his other friends know that the friend on the phone agreed to meet them at the park and had some dope for them all to smoke. They found a solution to ward off their “summer boredom.”

I watched the group, hoping that one of the girls would object to this idea or make an excuse to head home…none of them did.  They appeared easily willing to go along with whatever the boys decided, just happy to be included and to have something to do with their spare time.

“Studies have shown that teens with too much free time in the summer are more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes than those who are engaged in structured activities,” according to Susan N. Wilson, MS Ed., who currently serves as senior advisor to Rutgers University, the Answer sex education program .  June is the most common month for teens to lose their virginity according to University of Memphis professor Dr. Martin Levin. The sociologist refers to this phenomenon as the “summer effect.”

Help your teenager ward off “summer boredom” and avoid the “summer effect” by finding structured activities for him or her to do. Structure, rules and boundaries are very important to all children, especially teenagers who are constantly pushing up against them.  She will feel safe and cared for when you establish and enforce a consistent set of rules and consequences for rule violations. Your child wants this even when she says things to the contrary… “All the other girls are allowed to have boyfriends.”  It’s their job developmentally to fight for more independence…but they are often relieved when you step-in to protect them from potentially life altering mistakes.

It might be legal in most states to leave a child 12 years old or older home alone for periods of time, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Many families are experiencing financial difficulties due to the poor economy, so it might be tempting to cut costs by letting their fourteen year old daughter stay home alone rather than pay for a summer camp program. Unsupervised children are more vulnerable to becoming a victim of “summer boredom.” The money you save in the short-term can be a lot more costly in the long run, both financially and emotionally.

After working with the girls at the therapeutic boarding school and witnessing that event in the park, I felt compelled to provide a supervised program for girls ages 11-15 in our community, both during the summer and after school during the school year. My program is called Girl Spirit, which recognizes that “she matters” and strives to help girls realize their own true self worth. By providing a safe place and a positive peer culture, Girl Spirit enables girls to learn to love and value themselves.
Lisa Lipton is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in counseling services for pre-adolescent and adolescent girls, ages 11-17. Lisa Lipton utilizes the innerbonding approach to help girls connect with themselves, their families, and to guidance.  She is available for individual and group counseling sessions. She is the owner of “Girl Spirit,” a summer camp and after school program for girls ages 11-15. www.girlspirit.us.
Please contact her at (541) 598-5567 to learn more about her services.


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