Parents of 2012:  If you have managed to survive parenthood up through the teenage years, congratulations!  This is a major accomplishment and you should be proud.  You have likely seen many sleepless nights, grocery store tantrums, doctor appointments, science fair projects, parent-teacher conferences, middle school antics, and now high school dramas.  Keep in mind, however, that even as your kids grow older your job as a parent never loses importance or impact.

Being the parent of a teenager is scary business, and providing guidance, advice, and support is not as simple as it used to be.  Now you are dealing with a young adult who thinks independently of you, who feels complex emotions, and who is developing an identity of their own.  Parenting is all about achieving balance in the face of struggle and allowing your adolescent to find their identity and form healthy opinions and habits. It is your job as a parent to help your teen understand the importance of balance and harmony in their lives as they navigate the mine fields of high school and prepare for their future.

These days it seems like kids are feeling the pressure to do well in school and prepare for college sooner and more intensely than ever.  It is not often considered why all the extra pressure can be damaging instead of beneficial.  It is easy to see the increased opportunities to earn college credit in advanced courses, to apply for scholarships and awards, and to be involved in as many sports and other extracurricular activities as possible as a way to help teens get ahead.  But what is often being overlooked is the fact that these teenagers are still immature in their development and that all of these opportunities are adding a lot of stress to their already-full plates.  More and more, it seems like college and other pressures are infringing upon the development of high school students.  Students who are academically gifted might become overstressed by taking on too much and students who are slower to develop might become discouraged if they feel they are not achieving enough.  This video features teens who talk about what stresses them out and how they deal with it:

With that being said, it is more critical than ever that parents stay involved in their teen’s life.  Parents need to be good models of responsibility and harmony for their teens.  Meeting deadlines on time is an important habit to develop and teenagers do need exposure to real-life expectations, but they also need help planning and balancing their lives.  Parents should be encouraging their teens to challenge themselves, but they also need to let them know that it is equally as important to maintain harmony, including getting time for social interaction and relaxation.  Without developing outlets, teens will harbor stress and experience burn out.

Summer provides the perfect opportunity for teenagers to challenge themselves and grow while maintaining equilibrium with fun.  Here are a few ideas for teenagers to occupy their summer time with:

Volunteer.  Almost nothing helps a person feel as good and as inspired as community service.  Colleges and employers appreciate knowing that a person is well-rounded and cares about making the world better.  There are so many local opportunities available and since it is a matter of volunteering time, teens can make their own schedules and decide how much time they can and want to give.

Intern.  Getting exposure to a potential career through internships is a great way for teens – and even college students – to get a foot in the door as far as employment goes.  Much like volunteering, internship schedules are usually more flexible, so teens should still have time to enjoy their summers.

Develop a Talent.  A teen pushing himself/herself to learn something new will provide a sense of challenge and accomplishment.  This can be especially beneficial as an outlet for stress if it involves something they are passionate about, like playing the guitar.

Set Goals.  The trick here is for a person to stretch themselves, but not overexert.  Help your teenager set realistic goals, like finishing a book series over the summer or applying for two scholarships.  Setting goals is a good way to stay proactive and motivated about what you want to accomplish.

HAVE FUN!  I feel like this point cannot be emphasized enough.  Encourage teens to engage in activities that delight them, allow them to relax, and keep their spirits high and hopeful for the future.  Tell them it’s important to do what makes them happy while they can still enjoy being a kid.

One thing that can really cause stress in all areas of anyone's life is not being able to read.  If your teen is struggling with reading, you could use the summer months to improve their reading skills with 3-month access to Reading Horizons v5 program At Home .  It is a great program that can help any struggling reader make strides towards better fluency.