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3 Healthy & Flexible Boundaries To Have With Your Teen During The Summer Break

A mother and her daughter are sitting on the couch together. They are both looking at the phone in the young daughters hand and smiling.

3 Healthy & Flexible Boundaries To Have With Your Teen During The Summer Break

A mother and her daughter are sitting on the couch together. They are both looking at the phone in the young daughters hand and smiling.

Summer break is a time that many teenagers eagerly anticipate—months without school, in which long daylight hours provide plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation. However, the summer can present a unique set of challenges for parents. Without the structure of school, teens might push limits and test the patience of even the most understanding parents.

As a parent, you may find yourself struggling. You know that your job is to keep your children safe; you also know that it is your job to teach them how to look out for themselves. You want them to enjoy their youth while they can; you also want them to develop their skills of responsibility and self-regulation. How do you encourage them to have fun while also encouraging them to use their best judgment? How do you provide them with opportunities to relax and explore without feeling like you’re not protecting them? Setting boundaries during this time is crucial to ensure a harmonious household and a positive, productive break for everyone.

Why Are Boundaries Important?

A mother and daughter are sitting beside each other on the couch with their legs up. The daughter has a book on her lap as they both smile at each other.

Boundaries are important in every interpersonal relationship and essential for a healthy parent-teen dynamic, especially during the unstructured time of summer. They provide a sense of security and predictability, helping teens understand what is expected of them and what they can expect from their parents. They also create an environment in which parents can feel more confident that their child will be safe and happy, thereby alleviating excess stress and worry. While no system is perfect, and some things in life are beyond our control, having a mutually-agreed-upon framework can eliminate some problems before they even occur.

3 Ways to Set Boundaries with Your Teen During Summer Break

1) Establish a Routine:

A mother and son are sitting next to each other on the couch in the living room. They are looking at the phone in the mothers hand together.

While summer is a break from the rigid schedule of the school year, having some form of routine is beneficial. The human brain craves predictability and thrives within structure. Not everyone’s idea of structure is the same, and this is where conversation and compromise will come into play. As the adult in the dynamic, you will also notice that you are considering the entire household when you contemplate a functional routine. You can invite your teen to understand everything you’re trying to balance, but they will not have the same comprehension of running the household that you have, nor could they be expected to. This is a great opportunity, however, for you to state your needs as well, so that your teen is aware of what you are trying to achieve and how them sticking to a routine will enable the household to run more smoothly.


Discuss a daily or weekly schedule with your teen, including time for chores, leisure activities, and any summer learning or part-time work. This helps them manage their time effectively and ensures that the summer is not entirely chaotic. It also lets them know that you are invested in their fun and their rest.


Take time to talk to your teen about what they feel is a good routine for them. This is a good time to consider self-care basics, like a regulated sleep schedule, proper meals, hydration, and physical activity. Maybe your teen doesn’t have to get up as early during the summer as during the school year and wants to sleep a little later. What is a good time to sleep until (and go to bed at) that allows your teen some relaxation but won’t leave their body dysregulated (and make transitioning back to school a nightmare in the fall)? If your teen won’t be eating all meals at home, how can you ensure they get the nutrients and hydration they need? Whether you decide to eat every breakfast together or plan out when there will be family meals, make time to sit down together and eat something nutrient-rich and enjoyable.


If your teen is attending summer learning or working, then they will have a schedule that isn’t dictated by them and has to be worked around. Establishing a routine together is a great way to help your teen practice work-life balance. It will also help you to keep in mind that your teen has obligations outside the home and also wants, needs, and deserves a little more rest and relaxation in their break from school. So many of us look back on our teen years when we just wanted to grow up, and we wish we had appreciated our time a little more. This is a great opportunity to help your teen enjoy being young and free while they still can.


A lot of our Woodland Hills teen therapy sessions revolve around teen anxiety, the pressure to perform, and the drive to succeed. These in-person and online teen therapy sessions have recurring themes of wanting support from parents, but resisting asking for it. Being able to support your teen through their anxiety sometimes means letting them stumble or resisting the urge to remind them that you saw that issue coming. The best thing you can do is to help them plan time in their routine for stress management. You might even decide that there’s an activity you would like to do together, like going for walks, taking a class, or even listening to meditations together before bed. How can you help your teen practice self-care? Do you model self-care yourself; is that something you’d like to work on?

2) Set Clear Expectations and Consequences:

A young teenage girl is at a carnival looking at her phone. She has a somber facial expression.

The best way to set yourself up for success in any venture is to be clear and to communicate. It may feel intuitive to you to know what expectations are for your teen, but not clear at all to them. Be explicit about what you expect regarding chores, behavior, and social activities. Clearly outline the rules and the consequences for breaking them. Consistency is key—if a rule is broken, follow through with the predetermined consequences.


There are some consequences that are simpler to enforce than others but don’t really “suit the crime.” You may want to think about relating consequences to teaching lessons. Grounding is a straightforward consequence to enforce, but it makes more sense when it’s the result of being out somewhere and being unsafe or missing curfew and therefore not being able to be trusted to come home. If your teen misuses technology, taking it away might make the most sense. If your teen is skipping summer classes, then taking away certain privileges until they’re caught up might work best. Make sure to clarify that this isn’t about grounding but about providing the time they need in order to catch up; they can go out again once they’re up to date. Your job is to teach them to survive; this is a time for them to practice.


When you are considering expectations and consequences, don’t forget to plan how you will get back on track after an incident. A lot of situations can be made worse by being unable to move forward after a setback. Especially if your teen struggles with anxiety, it can be reassuring to them to know that one mistake isn’t going to derail their relationship with you or your trust in them. How will you remain bonded? How will your teen earn back your trust and their privileges again?


When thinking about your expectations, make sure to ask yourself if they are realistic. This great exercise of compassion helps you put yourself in your teen’s shoes. What outlying factors can impact this expectation; how easily are they mitigated? As a parent, you have spent your entire life making choices for your child and doing what you think is best. A great way to transition your thought process as your child begins to make choices for themselves is to imagine you are living their life. Step one of this is to imagine yourself fulfilling this expectation with the resources you have now. Step two is to consider any differences in the situation between yourself and your teen. For example, if you have a vehicle and your teen relies on transit or walking, how does that change your expectations about when your teen has to be home or what errands you expect your teen to run?


Remember that brain development is a fundamental difference between yourself and your teen. Your teen’s brain is still growing; they do not have the same impulse control that you have. What do you expect them to be able to achieve? Do you remember that they grew up in a different time than you did, don’t have the same life experience, and are the oldest they’ve ever been? They may feel quite mature despite still being quite young.


These considerations don’t mean that you don’t expect anything from your teen or that you give up on having boundaries. These are for you to know in your mind and heart so that you can approach conversations with your teen in the spirit of collaboration and mutual understanding. There is nothing stopping you from recruiting your teen to a mutual cause: everyone having a good summer. Don’t forget, when outlining expectations, that you can tell them you expect them to be kind to themselves, listen to their intuition, have fun, and other positive goals they can set.

3) Encourage Open Communication:

A mother and daughter are sitting together in the living room on the couch looking at one another as they rest their heads on their hands.

Ensure your teen feels comfortable coming to you with their plans and concerns. As a teen counselor in Woodland Hills, I know how tricky communication can be between generations. While you may not be up to date on all the latest slang, you can connect with your teen by showing respect, care, and honesty with your words.


Encourage them to communicate their needs and preferences while you do the same. An open dialogue helps build mutual respect and understanding. Teenagers are in a tricky time between childhood and adulthood. They are still under the care of adult supervision and are legally considered children. They are also taking on more responsibility and reaching new levels of independence in their activities and thoughts. In their mind, they may be caught between sharing with you and privacy, asking your opinion and forming their own, and needing help versus fear of consequences. There is no perfect way to navigate this juxtaposition, so your first step is to eliminate any idea that you’ll be able to have perfect conversations with your teen where both of you get it right all the time.


Set your communication up for success. If you know your teen isn’t fully awake within half an hour of getting up, don’t have a serious conversation then. There will always be extenuating circumstances where you’re running out the door and have to relay a message; the key is to make sure that you’re communicating most of the time in a supportive environment. What works for you and your teen? Do you want to schedule certain times to chat about the week? Does texting throughout the day suit you both best? What would constitute an emergency?


One source of concern for parents regarding open communication is handling the information they don’t want to hear. How will you speak to yourself about what you are learning from your teen? Considering your top priorities as a parent can be helpful: most parents just want their children to be okay. This doesn’t mean that missteps don’t have consequences; it means that you have a perspective about them that you can remind yourself about as you choose your words.


How often in your teenage years did the people in charge of you dismiss your thoughts or worldview? How often did they expect you to ‘fall in line’ without any sort of explanation? Imagine someone had said: “I know that I grew up in a different time than you did, and I haven’t been a teenager in a while. I want to be clear with you about what I expect, hear from you what you think, troubleshoot any problems you can imagine, and outline how consequences will work. I am trying my best to understand you, and I want you to have a great summer.” How would you have felt about that relationship; might you have tried harder to meet their expectations or felt better set up for success?

A Hispanic mother and son are sitting together in the kitchen. There is breakfast food on the table as they hold each others hands and laugh together.

We often discuss how to collaborate with and feel close to parents with our patients who attend teen therapy in Woodland Hills. Your teen is bound to have frustrations with you, just as you are with them. But that is a part of life and shows up in every relationship. What matters is how you navigate frustrations, cultivate an environment of safety, and how you and your teen learn to consider one another’s feelings. Boundaries are the method with which we can approach collaboration and intimacy. You and your teen will both benefit from clear and fair boundaries with one another!


Teen Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA

Our Teen Therapy services at Embracing You Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA work with you and your teen collaboratively to create positive long-standing change in your teen’s life. In Teen Therapy, we value helping your teen create a more positive and healthy self-image while also learning relationship and communication skills that will serve them well into their adult life. 

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