Do you remember those long, lazy days of summer when your children were small? The days seemed to stretch out endlessly before you, filled with laughter, sunshine, and trips to the pool. The challenge for parents of young children is often finding ways to counter the boredom that seeps in the cracks of those seemingly never-ending days.
However, when your kids hit the teen years, more often than not summer passes in the blink of an eye. Between their summer jobs, camps, family trips, and time spent with friends, you may wish your teen had time to be bored! Instead of thinking of ways to fill their time, you may need to seize this opportunity to teach your teen to rest in the midst of their busyness.
I’ll be the first to admit our family struggles in this area. Summer is flying by at the speed of light, and I feel like I’m holding on for dear life. So when my 15-year-old asked if we could plan fewer activities next summer, I knew it was time to take a step back and build some time in our schedule to simply rest. After all, if Jesus needed to step away at times, how much more do we need to do the same?
If you are experiencing the weariness of a busy summer schedule, here are eight ways you can teach your teen to rest.
8 Ways for Teens to Practice Resting
1. Create White Space.
Have you ever looked at a full calendar and felt your heart rate speed up simply because of the sheer volume of writing on the page? Summer comes with so many wonderful opportunities, but if we’re not careful, all those activities can steal our peace and make our life chaotic.
In Mark 6:31, Jesus urges his disciples to come away with Him to a quiet place so they can rest. Creating white space simply means intentionally keeping certain dates on the calendar blank and purposefully not scheduling anything on those days. This enables your teen to rest at home on those days and catch their breath.
2. Learn to Say No.
Most of us have a difficult time saying no to people and activities, but teens find this especially difficult. The thought of disappointing people can create anxiety and rob them of rest. However, this is the perfect time for them to learn the value of saying no to things that might keep them from their best yes.
If the calendar is filling up quickly, sit down with your teen and help them prioritize the things they value. Proverbs 16:3 encourages us to “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Teach your teen how to use prayer, pro/con lists, and other tools to discern the best ways to spend their time, along with what might not be the best use of their time. Be sure to applaud them when they say no to good things in order to be more present for the best things.
3. Step Away from Screens.
This is a hard one, but it is a battle worth fighting. Almost all the teens I know consider scrolling through social media or gaming their primary form of relaxation. Yet, countless studies reveal the negative effects of technology use and social media on teens’ mental health. Helping them learn to set healthy boundaries and time limits enables them to conserve emotional and mental energy and might even save their life.
Here are a few ideas to help teach your teen to rest from the impact of screens:
- Turn off notifications
- Set time limits for screen time and gaming
- Keep phones in common areas, especially at night
- Have a family “bedtime” when everyone turns off their phones for the night
- Set aside one day each week to be off social media/gaming (a Sabbath)
- Consider fasting from social media/gaming for 30 days
Screens are definitely not bad or evil, but too much of even good things can rob us of rest and steal our peace. In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul declares, “ ‘I have the right to do anything’… but not everything is beneficial.” Our teens should determine if it’s really worth it and if not, make some changes.
4. Get Outside.
I realize not everyone loves the great outdoors, but the fact remains—there is something about being in creation that draws our hearts to the Creator. Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:19 both give evidence to this truth. Giving your teen opportunities to ride, hike, wander, or sit quietly surrounded by nature can be extremely healing. Let me encourage you—teens who resist this idea may very well be those who benefit from it the most, so don’t give up too quickly.
5. Encourage Creativity.
Whether it’s playing an instrument, painting a masterpiece, designing a new invention, or tinkering with an engine, combining the work of our hands with our imagination seems to unlock something in our spirits. Perhaps it is because we are most like our Maker when we are creating. But I have watched stress melt away and pressure fall like shackles to the ground when teenagers tap into their own creativity. They don’t even have to be good at it—in fact, sometimes that’s even better. It’s the process itself that provides rest, not the finished product.
6. Serve Others.
While serving can also fall in the productivity category, most teens spend the majority of their time focused on themselves. Finding simple ways to serve others gives them rest from their preoccupation with themselves and opens the door for spiritual and emotional restoration. (See Romans 12:9-13.)
7. Share Burdens with Jesus.
In Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV), Jesus advises His followers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Our teens need us to model how to do this while gently reminding them, again and again, to lay their burdens down.
In order to experience true rest in their souls, our teens must stay connected to the Vine (John 15) and allow Him to grow peace, patience, joy, and other spiritual fruit in them. Learning to trust Jesus to carry their burdens as they faithfully obey Him is one of the most life-giving lessons our teens can learn.
8. Take a nap.
Sometimes when life gets especially chaotic, the most spiritual thing your teen can do is take a nap! “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2) When all else fails, encourage your teen to find rest by taking a nap.
Parenting Tip: Don’t try to implement these ideas all at once. Instead, choose one or two to start with and see if it makes a difference. After all, teaching your teen to rest is a gift they will return to again and again.