“There’sNothingToDooooooooo. . .”

I see it all over Facebook:  “I’m sooooo booooored.  Somebody text me, pleeeeeeeeease……..”

Right about now the “What-can-I-do-I’m-so-bored” syndrome should be setting in.  Whether they live in the Pacific Northwest (where they are complaining about the cold) or anywhere else in the country (where it’s apparently too hot), non-driving teens are finding their summer days dragging on.  It’s too early to get excited about going back to school to see their friends, but they’ve spent so many days at home that il dolce far niente – Italian for “the sweetness of doing nothing” – has worn off.

A break from school doesn’t have to be a break from learning – but summer learning should be fun!

Reading is always an educational activity, but many teens will say, “I don’t like to read.”  I say, “Hogwash” (which always gets a reaction).  Every teenager will read if offered a book on a topic they find interesting.  I ask students if they would read books about:

  1. How to earn $100 by doing chores, or
  2. Cheat codes for their favorite video games, or
  3. Foolproof methods for getting A’s in school.

Most of them assure me they would read such books.  At which time I point out it’s not reading they object to; it’s reading stories.  (And if I dig a little further, I can sometimes even find stories they’d actually like to read: “A man getting eaten by a shark?” “A 12-year-old who living on his own in the wilderness?” “Two girls stranded on an island with three babies?”)

In addition to reading, fun learning options might include sudoku, crossword, or jigsaw puzzles, or Mad Libs with a friend or family member (all can be found online).  Learning to cook (or trying new recipes) is good for honing reading comprehension, math, and  problem solving skills.  Family trips can include lessons in history, geography, or sociology, as well as instructions on how to be a savvy traveler.

Encourage your teen to be a learner by offering trips to the library or to Barnes and Noble (sweeten the deal with a trip to the Cafe).  Explore topics that might be interesting, and don’t give up at the first shrug and “I dunno.”


Alive! Awake! Alert!

Some teachers can’t wait for summer and the chance to be away from kids, but I’ve never been one of those. . .

I’ve just returned from a 10-day mission trip, spent with about 20 adults – and almost 60 teenagers (many of them my former students).  Every day began with breakfast at 8, followed by a morning of planning lessons for VBS (Vacation Bible School).  Around 11 we’d pack our lunches and head to our village, where we’d lead VBS from 12:30-2:30 and soccer camp from 3-4:30, with only a half-hour break in between.  We’d head back to camp for dinner, followed by more planning, some evening activities, and campfire.  Because of the long hours of daylight, it was hard to get to bed before 11:00.  The next day we’d start over again.

Because this was my 6th year on this trip, I knew Wednesday would be a tough day.  The newness was wearing off, fatigue was setting in, and Friday seemed a long way off.  I gathered my team of 28 around a picnic table and explained why this day might be the hardest.  Then I said, “I have some words for you: drowsy, yawning, fatigue, exhaustion, sleepy, tired. . .” At this point Kai, one of my college-aged leaders and a seasoned veteran, hunched over and quietly rolled off the bench.  As everyone laughed, I thanked him for helping me to make my point.

I then went on, “Let me give you some new words:  Energy!  Enthusiasm! Excitement!  Pushing through! Stamina! Peppiness!”  They got into the spirit and called out more words: “Fun! Happiness! Joy!”  Their eyes got brighter, they sat up straighter, and most began to smile.  I told them it was a mental trick – if they dwelled on how exhausted they were and kept thinking in terms of, “I’m so tired – when can we leave?” they’d make themselves truly miserable.  But if they thought in more positive terms – “I’m having a good time; I can do this” – and focused on what they were doing rather than on how they were feeling, they’d be surprised at how much better the day would be.

They took the lesson to heart, and we had a great day.  In the heat of the afternoon, red-faced, sweaty, and obviously in need of some rest, Erika, a 15-year-old team member, kept repeating one of our camp songs, “I’m alive. . .awake. . .alert. . .enthusiastic. . .”  She wasn’t singing loudly nor energetically, but neither was she complaining.  I smiled at her effort.

The lesson here is that teens can be taught to have more positive attitudes.  Have a discussion rather than issuing an order – “You’d better improve that attitude, Mister!” – or whining at your teen – “Why do you always have to be so negative?”  And be sure you’re modeling the attitude you want in your teen!

And here are some words for you as you parent a teen: Encouragement! Patience! Understanding! EMPATHY! (You knew I’d get it on the list. . .)

Two of a Kind: Teenagers and the USA

As we celebrate Independence Day, I ponder again how much like a teenager our country can be.  Both have been given lots of freedoms – and both can have problems dealing with those freedoms responsibly.

For example, when our founding fathers touted freedom of speech, they never dreamed it would be used to permit pornography in public libraries or atheist banners flying over the city on the Fourth of July.  In the same way, teens discover how powerful their words can be and use them to hurt others to gain power for themselves.  Or they exercise their freedom to swear in order to feel older and tougher.

Or how about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  Many Americans have landed in jail for their schemes in pursuing happiness for themselves.  Teens push for their right to liberty, and sometimes it seems as if all they care about is their own happiness.

And then there’s the right to a trial by jury.  Most, if not all, Americans cling to that right (though most Americans also fear the dreaded jury summons).  The teen version sounds like so:  “I swear I didn’t do it!  You can even ask Brittany – she’ll tell you I didn’t do it!”

However, in the same way I won’t give up on the USA ever straightening things out, I refuse to give up on teens getting their acts together.  By the world’s standards, our country is still a young’un at the tender age of 235.  By anyone’s standards, a 15-year-old is still much closer to childhood than to adulthood (but you might not want to point that out to the 15-year-old).  In both cases, we need to have plenty of patience while we watch to see how it all turns out.

And in the meantime we can expect plenty of fireworks from both!