Did just reading that title stress you out? I do not know about you, but I tend to dread the last day of school.

Nights that were filled with homework and sports practices change to nights coming home to Teenage Wasteland: food wrappers all over the house, milk still out on the counter from noon breakfast, dishes left in strange places, and the teenage phone zombies themselves still in pajamas. It is nights like these that a simple request of “please feed the dogs” turns into a screaming match over whose turn it is.

How do parents of teenagers keep from slowly going insane from mid-June until Labor Day? I am not going to pretend to know the answer, but I do know I need a plan—a very good plan. I need a plan that my husband and I cannot only enforce, but also that my daughters will not protest as if they are being sentenced to a summer of hard labor. (The second part will be more difficult, considering they think starting the dishwasher is “hard labor”.)

This is what I have so far in my summer plan for surviving with my teenagers, take one (I’m leaving room for modification as needed): 

1. They must get up each day by 10 a.m.
This seems more than fair. If I have to get up at 7 a.m. all year ‘round (I am using 7 a.m. loosely; sometimes it is a “hit the snooze four times” morning.), then they can get up by 10 a.m. I will monitor this by sending them “find my iPhone alerts” each morning and making them use some creativity in sending me back a picture of them somewhere besides their beds. Lying on their bedroom floor in a pile of dirty laundry? Fine. Sleeping at the table with their face in their cereal? Fine. Anywhere but bed.

2. Limit their screen time
This is the foundation of my plan—trying to keep them from staring at their phones and over-analyzing hundreds of selfies. Most selfies being with their tongues sticking out. (By the way, when did having to have your tongue halfway out of your mouth in every selfie become a thing? The half-out-tongue must have taken over for the duck lips.) To do this, I found this helpful app called Our Pact. It allows me to shut off their apps, while still allowing them to receive my calls and texts. To limit TV time, I take the remote with me to work. They have no idea how to get up off the couch and manually turn on the TV, let alone change any channels. Taking the remote is Gen Z-proof.

3. Leave them a specific to-do list
I find the key in getting them to do any housework is to give them choices. Their dad and I will make a daily and weekly list of what needs to be done. They can choose two to three items from the list each day. These items need to be finished BEFORE we get home from work. No excuses. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “But I forgot!” I guess I will “forget” to pay the WiFi bill this month.

4. Physical activity for one hour per day
Working in the fitness industry and coming from an active family, this one is very important to my husband and me. Let’s face it: social media and technology has produced a population of stressed out, sedentary teenagers with low self-esteem. I like to focus on the mental benefits of exercise for this age group. It decreases stress and increases relaxation. It helps alleviate anxiety and depression, and improves self-confidence. It also increases productivity and creativity.

Whether they are working out with a personal trainer at the gym, chasing each other around the yard trying to stab each other with sticks because one stole the other one’s favorite Adidas sweats, or taking videos of them bouncing the dog on the trampoline, they WILL get in their physical activity time. I also encourage them to visit their friends with swimming pools and make sure they have towels before they leave. My apologies to all parents with swimming pools. This is why we will never have a swimming pool.

As I mentioned before, this is take one of my summer plan. I am sure there will be a take two, three, four, and maybe even 10. Please feel free to send me any of your favorite tricks, tips or just general emotional support. Together, we can get through the summer!

Originally published in The Heart of Texas Corners

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Angie Penney

I am a wife and mother of two daughters, ages 14 and 16. We have 2 dogs and live in Southwest Michigan. I work full time as a Marketing Director for a large health club.