The casual days of summer provide a wonderful opportunity to shift gears, relax and recharge our human batteries. It is probably the most challenging time for parents raising teenagers.
What do high school co-eds do during the summer? Some work, some have to go to summer school. However, a growing number have little or nothing to do.
They consistently look for activities to engage in. Some get involved with local summer youth programs. Others welcome the newfound time to explore literature and music. Still others will be creative and work on a wide range of projects.
However, there is a rather large group of teenage co-eds who won't find much of anything stimulating. They will get into mischief. For some of them, it will be lethal and very costly.
Hanging out is a major preoccupation that many teenagers engage in. They love hanging out anywhere they are welcome. For many, it is just harmless fun which is expressed in playing loud music and talking about everyone and their brother.
A growing number of "hanger-outers" are getting bored with just taking up space on a local street corner or in someone's living room. They want to be more adventurous. These teenagers engage in some behaviors that would be considered reckless and dangerous. Smoking pot, drinking, and driving are just a few social behaviors that will escalate during the lazy days of summer.
A growing number of teens, beginning in middle school, will start smoking pot for the first time. Some will try a joint, drink their first beer and even have their first sexual encounter this summer.
No matter what we try or how we try to restrict or supervise our teens, we are not going to eliminate these behaviors. With some effort, we might protect some teenage co-eds from hurting themselves and others.
As parents, do you know what your son or daughter is doing on a daily basis during summer vacation? What can they do or not do with their free time? What kind of supervision do you expect them to have as middle and high school students?
Can they go to the beach with friends without adult supervision? What about parties and sleepovers? Do your kids touch base throughout the day, just checking in to let you know they are alive?
Do you know their summer friends? Do you talk about the challenges of summer days and all the extra freedoms they have?
We all want our children to enjoy their summer vacation. We want them to have fun, make new friends and continue to grow as young people. However, it is not always that simple. It is never that easy.
Last summer JR graduated from a local middle school. He was an excellent scholar athlete. Throughout middle school, he and his parents had a great relationship. They talked openly about many delicate issues around teenage behavior. JR trusted his parents and his parents trusted JR. He was the oldest of three sons.
When summer vacation came, JR asked for more freedom. With little hesitation, he got the freedom he asked for. He wanted a later curfew, his folks said yes. He wanted to take the bus to the ocean with friends, his parents said yes. He asked for occasional sleepovers, his parents said yes.
Late June and early July, things were pretty uneventful. By late July and early August, JR's Mom started to notice a change in her son's behavior. He was coming home late for his mutually agreed upon curfew. He was not checking in by phone during the day.
When he was initially confronted, he apologized and said he would do better. Little changed except for the fact he was asking for more sleepovers at the beach with some new friends that he had made.
JR's Mom talked to some of the parents who were renting homes on Fire Island on the East End. They assured her the boys were behaving and having fun. JR's parents did not know these families and were not really familiar with Fire Island. They lived on the North Shore and only once or twice had gone to the ocean on the South Shore at Smith's Point.
In the early hours of a hot August morning, JR's parents got a call from the Marine Police Bureau. They had picked up JR and another boy from the North Shore who were involved in a fight. The police were concerned because both boys were drunk and had pot in their possession. The boys could not tell them where they were staying on the beach.
The police said they would bring JR to the ferry terminal on the mainland for his parents to pick him up. They indicated that because he was not yet sixteen, they would not arrest him. However, they would give him a summons that would bring him into Family Court.
JR's parents met them at the ferry terminal at 3:00am. They were mortified, but grateful that their son was alive and still in one piece. The ride home in silence was deafening. Once at home, JR's parents thought it best that everyone go to bed and discuss JR's adventure in the morning.
The next day around midday, there was a big powwow. Needless to say, JR's parents were not happy. JR was nervous, ashamed and embarrassed.
The first thing JR's Mom asked was "Where were you staying? Did the family know that you and your friend were out on the beach drinking?"
The first shocking revelation: there was no family. The parents that JR's parents had initially spoken with had only rented for a few days and were not at the beach. JR and his friends set up an elaborate scheme to convince their parents that they were staying with a family.
Instead of staying with a family, they were sleeping on the beach, under the walks or on people's decks. They were showering and cleaning up in the public bathrooms. As long as they were well behaved, they stayed under the radar and did not call any attention to themselves.
However, the night they got extremely intoxicated, they got into a few altercations and woke a number of people up, which is why the police were called.
JR came clean and admitted that he was drinking all summer at the beach when he slept out. It was there that he started to use pot. When asked why, he said that everyone was doing it and he wanted to fit in.
His parents realized that they should have been more aware of his social behaviors, especially since he is their oldest and they had never been to Fire Island. They finally took a day trip! They loved the beach and the ocean, but got a real education on what unsupervised teens do during the summer while at the ocean.