Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Let It Go: Parents, Let Teens Unwind this Summer

Teens need a social and emotional break from academic expectations.

Key points

  • Teens are tired, stressed, and burned out from meeting rigorous academic standards in an online environment.
  • Adapting to a fully virtual world has been socially challenging and teens need a break.
  • Lowering expectations of high academic standards for the summer will let teens foster social and emotional well-being.
Image by Dim Hou from Pixabay
Source: Image by Dim Hou from Pixabay

The past 15 months have been unprecedented. As I always ask – how many pandemics have you lived through? Our teens made insane changes quickly and suddenly, and although they initially welcomed them, that is not the sentiment right now.

Our teens became anxious, sad, overwhelmed, socially isolated, and grieved for all the milestones they missed. They have learned how to “meet” with friends using apps, bake together, watch movies together, and all within the virtual world.

Even though March 2020 through June 2020 were boring and academics didn’t look anything like our teens knew them to be, they chugged along and hoped for a different September.

But September came, and things changed, but not necessarily for the better. For my children and many of the teens I work with, the schedule became a hybrid one in school one week and out the next. They learned how to shift constantly, and sometimes, they were virtual for several weeks until the number of cases in the school building decreased. There is no lunch in the building, hallways with one-way signs, mask breaks, and shorter or longer periods.

Teachers didn’t get to really bond with students and know them well. Many of our children still don’t know what their teachers really look like, and their teachers don’t know what they look like. Although very little looked the same, academics became intense and didn’t let up. Our teens have managed the same academic demands within an environment where instruction looked very different. And as their parents, many of us expected the same high levels of performance, and the pressure didn’t really let up.

Our teens are stressed and tired and burned out, just as we, their parents, are. Why did we lose our focus from maintaining mental health to holding on to high academic standards as parents and teachers?

Let Them Eat Cake

Perhaps we don’t have to do that literally, but you get what I mean. Let the high standards go for an intense summer in preparation for the fall. Let your teens have time off this summer to engage in fun activities and socialize.

In the wise words of Elsa, let it go – our children have been suffering. Allow your teens as much downtime as is needed and allow them to create a schedule that will allow them to recuperate and regain their energy and sense of well-being.

Talk to Someone About it

Many of our teens are struggling emotionally. Although we are slowly making progress with the pandemic, its effects will be lasting. Many of us have faced more fighting and too much “together time” in our home, and our usual outlets have not been available, teens and adults alike.

Many of us have forged deeper relationships with our teens because we haven’t had to commute or have had more time to bond with our children and have learned about struggles they’ve been silently and secretively having. Talk to someone about it. Many therapists are returning to in-office visits. Find a therapist. Vent and problem solve with someone who is objective.

Focus on Well Being

If you can join your teen – great! Encourage your teen to:

  • Go outside and stay outside
  • Breathe, meditate
  • Read a book
  • Listen to an audible
  • Watch a series
  • Make a list of places to visit locally and go!

Although many of us are concerned for our children’s future, it’s important to focus on mental health and well-being for now.

Our children will catch up and be exactly where they need to be. Pushing for “more” right now won’t accomplish much more than burnout, resentment, and rebellion. Just let it go.