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Teens and Free Time

By — Community Action Network
Updated on Feb 25, 2011

Today's teenagers seem to have more time and less responsibility and supervision than the last generation's. It's quite common to see teens "hanging out" at shopping centers, fast food restaurants or where ever they can get together to socialize. Usually, they just have fun and enjoy themselves, but sometimes problems occur. Teenagers who are bored and looking for something to do are likely to get into trouble and become involved in unhealthy, inappropriate or illegal activities.

The increased number of unoccupied and unsupervised teens in may be related to the loss of many family farms and business and to the increase in single parent families. Many teens in the last generation were expected to share the responsibility and work of a family farm or business. They were supervised, learned important skills and didn't have time to get into mischief. Today, most parents work away from the family, and teens are left to occupy themselves . Also, single parents and parents who are both working are often unable to adequately supervise their teenager's activities.

Teens need free time to spend with friends, relax and have fun. They need to learn how to find appropriate, healthy activities and entertainment. Free time can teach them important skills they will need as adults. Unfortunately, too much free time can cause problems. Not all teenagers are able to find appropriate, healthy activities and entertainment for themselves when they are not occupied and supervised. Following are some things parents can do to help teens learn to be responsible, have fun and stay out of trouble.

  • Set specific rules about family expectations, such as time to be home, chores and responsibilities, etc. Allow teens to help make decisions about rules and consequences.
  • Give younger teens specific responsibilities and chores. offer opportunities to earn extra privileges or money for doing extra chores. Allow teens to spend money they earn on things they want.
  • Encourage older teens to get a part time job. Jobs provide and opportunity to meet people, learn new skills and earn extra money.
  • Talk with older teens and encourage them to think about their goals and what they would like to be doing when they are adults. Help them plan activities working toward their goals.
  • Know where teens will be. Call and check occasionally, or ask them to check in periodically. If they are at home, ask a family member, neighbor or friend to stop by if possible.
  • Encourage teens to become involved in community programs, recreational activities and special events that they are interested in. Check into activities available in the community, such as scouting, softball, YMCA, camps, church activities, clubs, etc.

For more information or help with your behavioral health care needs, call the Trinity Child and Adolescent Program at (515) 574-6596.

This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.

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