Not all teens have busy lives. Some teens go to school, come home, get on the computer, go to their video games, and settle in for the rest of the day and night. For these teens, this rest of the day and night can be a full day's worth of hang if you add up the hours. Most high schools are done by 2:30 ish, bus ride home 30 minutes, and then you are home and it's only 3:00 PM. That leaves you a full 8 hours of screen time before bed. Not good. If your teen has this kind of time on their hands, and if they aren't a kid who uses that time for studying and reading War and Peace than I think you need to help them to self motivate to use their time in a better way. The mantra, the more time you have, the less you do, is very applicable here. Teens who have this amount of unstructured time, tend to also be the kids whose school motivation is low. Self esteem comes from being active and involved, and feeling at the end of the day that you have accomplished something. This makes the next day something to look forward to. For kids who have not found their niche in sports, or activities in or out of school, every day becomes a repeat of the day before, with little to look forward to, and little to feel good about.
Let's look at some options to help those teens with too much time on their hands. OK, let's start with some very basic things. If you are a parent who does your teen's laundry, let's begin here. I am all for parents "doing for" kids who are engaged in life. If your teen doesn't get home till 5 or 6 because of sports or activities or a job, them has to eat, have a little down time and then off to do homework, than help away...Please! But if your teen is home and on the couch by 3 PM, do not do their laundry, and make their bed. You might say: "Here is your choice, I can help you find a job, get an internship, brainstorm some ideas for finding something to do after school that interests you, but if you choose to come home every day to just hang for the next 8 hours than I think you have the time to take care of your own laundry."
Money is always a great motivator. You might say: "We think it's really important for you to find something to do a few afternoons after school. We have noticed that having this amount of time on your hands isn't really helpful to you. You aren't using them for homework, or even hanging with friends, and too much screen time can really affect your motivation for doing things that are good for you. We would like to see you look for a part-time job or volunteer or internship. If you choose not to do this, then we choose not to just give you money or buy you stuff . We will be happy to pay you for work you can do around the house in lieu of a job, we will help you find a job. If you volunteer or get an internship, do a sport or an activity at school, go to the gym regularly, there are a ton of options, then we will be happy to give you money or buy you what you want or need since you would be out and being busy doing something positive. I get you like and need a lot of down time. And we are OK with a few hours of that, but not from 3-11 PM every day. So let's do some planning."
Your teen is in the beginning stages of developing an identity. Who am I? What turns me on? What makes me happy? Many teens are overwhelmed with the choices and have absolutely no idea how to get off that couch or get away from the computer screen. Too many options confuse them, so they opt for what is familiar and comfortable. They need you to understand that, rather than judge them for being a lazy sloth, cause of course that is how it looks. Teens need incentives. For some, the roar of the crowd during a football game or from acting in the school play or a pay check from a part-time job is their incentive. Find out what your teen's incentive is, an offer it up to get them up!!!