Teens and Summer: Surviving the Dog Days


Screen Shot 2013-05-27 at 5.14.24 PMI have four more days of high school.

In reality, I should be saying that my son Adam has four more days of high school. With him — my “baby” — getting ready for his last week of schooling as a resident of our house, I’m alternating between sobs and cheers. Gone will be the days of, “Have you done your homework?” and “It’s time for bed.”

In their place will be the days of “Have you done laundry lately?” and “Do you need more money in your account?”

But in between this last week of hands-on high school parenting and the empty nest syndrome is a long stretch of summer. Since Adam graduates relatively early from high school and doesn’t start his new University classes until late September, we’ve got several weeks to negotiate.

If you have teens in your home, you likely know what I’m talking about. Those days of no real bedtime and sleeping until noon. The days of “Can I go to ___ with ___?” and “What’s for lunch?” three times per day.

We love them, but they can also drive a mom of teens a bit bonkers. So today, I thought I’d throw open the doors and let you — our mom experts — share your summer survival tips for parenting teens.

A few questions for you to contemplate:

  • Do your teens have a “bedtime”?
  • Do your teens cook for themselves?
  • Do your teens have summer jobs?
  • If no summer jobs are available, do your teens do volunteer work?
  • Do your teens have “summer homework”, either assigned by school or by their parents?
  • For moms and dads of teens who have graduated, do your teens who are readying for college have different rules in the summer before they fly your coop?
  • Do your teens participate in a retreat or other spiritual activity during the summer?

Please share your thoughts, tips, and yes, even your complaints in the comments section below. I’m hoping that this conversation we start today can be the prompt for numerous summer articles.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

*disclaimer: that’s not my son in the photo!

Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.


  1. Mothering From Scratch on

    {Kathy} Ok. I feel like this may be true confession time. My teens don’t have a bedtime. They need one, however. Cooking and cleaning occur—just not on my schedule. This summer I am going to try the concept of “work for hire”. I am going to make a list of jobs to be done around the house with their payment amounts, i.e. clean the garage = 30 dollars.
    As far as summer jobs, no formal ones, just ones with family members.

    • no bedtimes here either… I think your “work for hire” idea is great. I’m already planning some work that my 18 year old can do, and it seems next to impossible for them to find a part time job these days. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I have one teen (17, a HS junior) and one college student (21) as well as one future teen (11). My older two are gainfully employed this summer, which is good. My teen is also participating in a summer drama workshop, so she will be kept fairly busy, which is good.
    Do they cook for themselves? If they miss the family mealtime, yes. My older two are both good cooks. (Do they clean up after themselves? Not so much.)
    Do they have a bedtime? NO. And unfortunately, their younger brother wants to be Just Like Them–and with the huge age gap, that gets dicey quick.
    As for spiritual activity, we expect that they attend Sunday Mass. Appropriately dressed. If they want to go at a different time than the rest of the family, I’ll live with that, as long as they go.
    Just last week I spelled out “LEAVE NO TRACE” in refrigerator magnets because I’m tired of cleaning up after them all. I don’t think anyone noticed. However, they have been informed that if I don’t get an empty laundry basket from them on Tues, Thurs and Sat, they will not get any clean laundry on Mon, Wed and Fri.
    Once everyone is out of school there are going to be higher expectations regarding household chores.
    I’ll be interested in reading what everyone else has to say here!

    • hey I like that magnet message!

      and I’m so glad I’m not the only laundress in the crowd. My Adam is going to have a rude awakening when he goes off to college. Doing his own laundry will likely nip his “change my clothes four times per day” habit it the bootie.

  3. My daughter (15) does not have a set bedtime for the summer. We also have a list of chores and money amounts that can be earned. My husband and I decided that neither of our children will no longer get anything unless they help out. ( I have a 5 year old too). We have a “ticket system” and the tickets can be traded in for a dollar value or for an activity for my younger one.

    My daugher will also be going on a week long mission trip, will do two weeks of CIT at our local Catholic camp. She is also going to another camp called Youth Sing Praise http://youthsingpraise.com/ She is not allowed to “sleep in”. She is expected to get up at a decent hour (no later than 9) no matter what time she goes to bed. We believe in our house that sleeping late is a cause of laziness and we all have many productive things to do with our lives other than stay up late and sleep in. As far as chores and responsibility: She cooks her own breakfasts and lunches and is expected to pick up after herself. She has been responsible for doing her own laundry somewhere about the time she turned 11 or 12.
    I have always kept her active and I think it really has encouraged her to be independent and not lazy.

  4. My oldest son just turned 13 in January and he is well on his way to learning responsibility. He doesn’t really have a bedtime but usually spends his evenings hanging out with his dad watching sports or TV shows that they both enjoy after my younger sons and I are in bed so he usually goes to bed when his dad does. He doesn’t cook yet but helps me out in the kitchen when I need him. He helps his dad do yardwork and odd jobs that come up. We live in an area with few Catholics so there is not much opportunity for retreats and fun things with our parish. I offered to let him go to the Baptist Church youth night one night and he surprised me by saying that he didn’t want to go because he didn’t want to confuse their beliefs with his Catholic beliefs. I try to offer learning opprtunities to all of my boys during the summer but I must say it is harder with the older kids.

  5. No real bedtime, but we roust him out of bed at a decent time. He doesn’t have a job, but he is doing a lot of volunteer work this summer. He’s spending a week at a camp for the disabled as a counselor, and a long weekend at a conference working with special needs kids. He is also going to scout camp, and working on his Eagle project. He’s working on an old truck that his uncle gave him to get it running. So he’s definitely busy. And yes, he does have to do chores, cook, clean, and help his dad with his home-based business. So it’s not just lay around all day, even though he gets to spend quite a bit of time with friends.

  6. Here’s a tip that has been a huge blessing to my family: We make our kids “earn” their screen time. In order to “unlock” their screen time for the day (TV, computer, etc), our kids need to read the Bible for 1/2 hour AND do another 1/2 hour of spiritual time. This includes things like reading the lives of the saints or other holy books, prayer, or watching EWTN shows we’ve DVRed. We try to make sure we always have a good amount of teen oriented Catholic books, shows, and even things we’ve found on Youtube for the kids to be able to choose from. This has worked very well for us. They start their day off right and then get to do their “fun” stuff. They also can “earn” extra screen time by going to daily Mass and adoration throughout the week too. We try to infuse their day with their Catholic faith.

    Another huge amazing thing we do at night is that we all say the family rosary together on the couch and snuggle up together. We watch “the Holy Rosary in Stained Glass” from EWTN and it leads us in our rosary with beautiful visuals and music. Our family has been so greatly blessed by this.

    The kids are blessed to have wonderful Catholic summer camps here for their own age groups that they love. So we do those every summer.

    We do have a bedtime, but it’s 11pm. So I don’t know how helpful that is!

  7. I have a nearly 17 year old and an 11 year old.

    Do your teens have a “bedtime”?: My kids are competitive swimmers and are usually begging for bed before 10pm. The 17 year old has added the fun of a commute to practice on top of its very early start so this summer will be very interesting. The younger one won’t be up quite as early but she will be up for practice earlier than she is for school. There’s not a lot of sleeping in possible here, and when it is possible, they are loath to try it because they know how it feels to mess up their sleep schedules. Not pretty.

    Do your teens cook for themselves?: They would rather not, but they are learning. I am trying to get them to see the leftovers in the fridge and the dishwasher right now.

    Do your teens have summer jobs?: Yes, the oldest will be teaching swim lessons and life guarding for the person who also coaches his swim team. We are so grateful because that’s the only way the commute plus two-a-day practices were going to work.

    If no summer jobs are available, do your teens do volunteer work?: I wish my oldest had more time for volunteer work, but two-a-day practices plus working leaves little time for volunteering. He may participate in our parish’s music ministry as time permits.

    Do your teens have “summer homework”, either assigned by school or by their parents? My oldest is taking a health class online. Taking the class is required by the school but taking it during the summer online was decided by us. My youngest will be working on math this summer, trying to move ahead a little and also keep her skills sharp. I find the smaller ones lose too much math if they don’t do something. I think the older one also has some summer reading required by the school but I haven’t seen details yet.

    Do your teens participate in a retreat or other spiritual activity during the summer?: Again, time is a problem. Our youth group will be functioning in some limited way, although I am not sure what form that is going to take as yet. Because of our time constraints I have asked both kids to choose from our family library some books to read and discuss. The older one chose Prayer in the Digital Age by Matt Swaim, Confessions of St. Augustine, The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn, Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel and The Genesee Diary by Henri J. M. Nouwen. My younger one has not yet chosen but I have Saint Patrick’s Summer by Marigold Hunt pulled out as a suggestion.

    Very interesting to see everyone’s responses!

  8. I’m pretty much towards the end of having kids still at home as my oldest- 23 yo daughter- lives in her own apt. fairly close to us with a great job at a local quilting/fabric shop. Child #2 is 22 yo son home from college for a few months until he goes to Oxford for an internship before starting his senior year at Thomas More in NH. The third- 20 yo son- finishes up community college in a couple of weeks and will head off to Christendom in August. Last, but no means least, 18 yo daughter has had “transition” year after high school with trying to figure out what to do in life. She’ll be heading to community college to start nursing studies this fall. All this to say, even with them being young adults, we still have a set of rules the ones living with us need to follow. Curfew- yes, 11 p.m. during weeknights, 12:00 a.m. on weekends unless pre-arranged. Getting up isn’t much a problem as they all have summer jobs as well as stuff they have to do around the house. During the week they will make their own breakfast and lunch, and we all eat dinner together. On weekends, we cook together. Since the boys are both discerning priesthood, they will be attending a retreat at Mt. Angel Monestary in July. We’re pretty involved in our parish, so that helps the kids too. One last thing, they and my husband are fairly recent converts (with me being a revert) all in 2011, and since then things have been different- we have family prayer time, everybody wants to get up and go to church (not just on Sundays) and the kids have gotten closer. The biggest suggestion that I can make is 1)pray for your kids especially as they become adults and 2) hang out with them and laugh. The old saying about time flying is so true!

  9. I have an 18YO and 13 YO. The 18YO will be living at home and commuting to a regional campus of a State U. in the fall. They are expected in their rooms at 10 PM. I am ok with loosening that up a bit. but the 18YO has been known to “forget” to go to bed. He ahs a babysitting job 4 days a week, 3 weeks a month. He is expected to let us know where he is going (usually his GFs) and what time he is expected home.

    the 13YO cooks. Clean., not so much. The 18YO will help with the laundry. We do it on the weekends and it is a group effort to keep the load going. Hubby usually folds it on our bed.

    13YO has 2 weeks of camps in June, Baseball and music. 18YO will help with transprotation. Then in July 13YO will have 2 weeks of half days religious ed.

    Since I work outside the home, I don;t monitor get-out-of-bed times, but 13YO is usually up and the job will drive 18YO out of bed.

    I plan to play with my wireless router and limit the times it can be connected as they like to play online. 13YO finishes up school this week.

    Good luck and happy summer to all.

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