We know our teens are busy, so we don’t want to make them wake up early on a Saturday morning to go off to work. Instead, we allow them to sleep in and lovingly continue to pay for their gas and cell phone bill.
We know our sons and daughters are busy, so we don’t want to bother them when they are scrolling social media, playing video games or binge-watching Netflix shows in their downtime.
We know our kids are busy, so we don’t want to burden them with anything else and continue to do everything around the house so that they don’t have to.
We forget that no matter how busy our teen may be they still need to be a contributing member of the family and society overall.
We must take the time to teach our children the essential life skills that will help them when they launch into adulthood, no matter how busy they may appear to be.
What Your Busy Teen Should Do This Year
1. Earn money
I don’t know about you, but I began working at the age of 15. I spent my Friday nights at the Burger King up the street from our house rather than at the high school football games, where I’d rather have been. If I wanted those Jordache jeans and the latest 45 record, I was going to have to pay for them, so off to work I went. And guess what? I built a strong work ethic that continues today because my parents expected me to work for what I wanted.
All too often today, I hear parents say that their teens don’t have time to work. Schoolwork, club sports and consuming extracurricular activities fill their days. And it’s true, many teens, including mine, don’t necessarily have the time to go to a job but it’s crucial that we expect them to find ways to earn money.
If my kids have time to hang out with friends, drive cars, play club sports and scroll expensive smartphones, then they can find time to also help contribute to the costs of these privileges.
We’re not helping our teens when we let them believe that because they are busy, they don’t have to contribute. Asking a child to pay for their gas, fast food or data plan is not too much to ask. If your son or daughter’s busy schedule doesn’t allow them to go work a job in the community, then perhaps they can start an online business, tutor or babysit younger kids. What we can’t continue to do, is pay for everything without expecting anything in return.
Because our kids are so busy, we feel bad asking them to help out around the house when they are home. Our teens have a lot on their plate, so we hate to burden them with anything else, so we don’t ask them to do their laundry, clean their bathroom or help make any meals for the family. Our son or daughter doesn’t have time to contribute, so we allow them to show up and just be served instead. And then we wonder why they don’t seem to have the work ethic that we had growing up. Go figure.
We must expect our teens to help around the house and be contributing members of our family. We aren’t doing our kids any favors when we do everything for them and then send them off to college or into the real world without anyone to continue taking care of them.
Expect your teens to help out around the house on a regular basis. Sure we can come alongside them during busy seasons and help them, but our kids should know that washing their dirty underwear is their responsibility.
3. Write thank you notes
I’m not sure why expressing gratitude through the written word is optional today. Our kids are really too busy to take the time to jot a personal note of gratitude in a card? Or is it that maybe we the parent are so busy that we don’t take the time to teach our son or daughter the importance of doing this?
No matter how busy life gets, we mustn’t allow our kids to receive without expressing appreciation in return.
Of course, our teens aren’t most likely going to write thank you notes without our prompting. We, the parent, need to set the expectation, buy them a set of cards and tell them if they want to go out Friday night they’re going to need to make sure they’ve thanked Aunt Linda for the birthday gift first.
Make the kind gesture of writing thank you notes a habit in your home. Teach your child the necessity of taking time out of their busy schedule to show appreciation to other people.
4. Fill out paperwork
We quickly fill out our child’s school paperwork or the online sports forms without giving it a second thought. Plus it’s just easier than waiting and asking our child to do it themselves. Sure we are helping our teen by filling out their paperwork, yet at the same time, we’re robbing them of learning how to do a tedious life skill that they can and should be doing for themselves.When our son or daughter goes to fill out a job or college application, we want them confident in doing so. Therefore, we must give them practice filling out their paperwork now even though they will likely fall back on the ‘I’m too busy, can’t you just do it’ line that we parents fall for so often.
5. Serve others authentically
Community service wasn’t on our teenage radar back in the day, so I love that volunteering and giving back to the community is something our teens do today. But, all too often, serving others has become another thing for our son or daughter to accomplish and check off of life’s to-do list. And many times, our kids are only out volunteering in the community to fulfill the service hours required by many schools and organizations today.
Make sure your teen has space in their life to authentically serve people, starting with your family members, your neighbors, and your friends. Don’t have them so scheduled that they don’t have the bandwidth to see the basic needs that exist around them on a regular basis.
We want our children to grow up aware of the needs of others and figure out ways they can authentically help people and not because it may look good on a resume or an application. Always, look for ways your teen can regularly serve someone who needs their help without logging any service hours for it.
There’s no doubt that our teens are busy. We must make sure that despite their hectic lifestyles we purposely take the time and make the effort to teach our kids the skills and lessons that will serve them well later in life.
Amy Carney is a writer and speaker living in sunny Arizona. She is the author of the book Parent on Purpose: A Courageous Approach to Raising Children in a Complicated World and writes about intentional parenting on her blog www.amycarney.com. Follow Amy on social media @amylcarney.