Summer is here. For most parents this is a relief. You’re thankful your teenager is out of school because there is so much less stress when they aren’t doing homework, playing sports, etc. However, for those of you who have a teenager with a history of drinking or drug use, summer is a dreadful time. Every day of the week is a Friday night, and they spend a lot of time unsupervised during the day.
Here are some ideas for sober summer fun that might help your teenager have fun without using substances:
1) Plan a movie night. Let your teenager invite a few friends over to watch movies late into the night. Teens like to do things at night, and usually if they have a plan first they make better choices. You can have snacks ready, and several movies available to choose from.
2) Teens always enjoy a day at the beach. Again, have some planning in place. Make sure you’re driving and another parent is picking up. They’re less likely to use drugs or drink if they know a parent will pick them up. Pack a cooler of food and sodas/juice/water for them and their friends to enjoy.
3) Go for a hike. Even if your teenager doesn’t want you there with them, taking them to a spot where they can hike with a few friends can be a great activity for them to do during summer.
4) Swim in a backyard pool, or a busy neighborhood pool. One place teenagers tend to drink alcohol is at the pool when nobody else is around. In a backyard pool with a parent home it is hard to get away with this. The same goes for a busy community pool.
5) Learn to surf. Any surfer will tell you the best time to surf is very early in the morning. Teens who love to surf might be less likely to party late because they want to get up early the next day. I realize surfers have a reputation for marijuana use, but the act of surfing doesn’t really go well with being high or intoxicated. It takes way too much energy and concentration.
6) Get involved with a high school church youth group. These groups are always planning fun activities during summer from bowling to camping trips. Of course these are always sober outings.
7) Volunteer time. Spending time helping others who are less fortunate is actually fun, and feels rewarding. It also causes teens to think about something other than themselves. When teens are getting high or drinking they tend to be thinking about themselves so volunteering is a great way to break through self-focused thought.
8) Play a sport. I worked with a kid who got high multiple times per day for two years. When he decided to get sober he realized a lot of his friends played basketball each day. He started to play with them and then didn’t want to smoke out anymore because he ran better, reacted faster and played smarter when he was sober.
9) Take a class. There are a lot of interesting, quirky classes offered throughout the community and at the local colleges. Encourage your child to take a class on pottery or dance. They’ll grumble at first but they will most likely end up enjoying honing a new skill.
10) Start exercising. See if your teen can get a friend to work out with on a regular basis. This is really good for self-confidence and stress relief. While your teen might not be extremely stressed over summer, they also might use and drink less if they feel better about themselves.
If you’re the parent of an adolescent and you’re worried about too much summer free-time, hopefully you’ve found this a little bit helpful. It will probably work even better if you let your teenager read through the list and see what they’re willing to do. Sometimes they will say ‘no’ simply because you suggested it.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT