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  • Dr. Mojgan Makki

Help Your Teens Stay Happy, Safe, and Motivated this Summer

We have spent the past two weeks talking about the effects of too much screen time on children and adolescents. We know parents don’t want their kids spending their entire summer binge watching Netflix or endlessly scrolling through TikTok. But what are teenagers who have lost out on summer camp, jobs, internships, and travel plans due to the pandemic supposed to do? To give you and your kids some ideas, we have turned to several local teenagers who have found interesting and safe ways to ward off boredom this summer. We hope you can use their ideas to inspire and motivate your own teenagers and young adults.

1) Learn something new.

Maybe there is something your teenager has always been interested in, but has never had the time to fully explore. They do now! A high school student from Deerfield is learning sign language by using the ASL app. She has always found sign language intriguing, and because she likes working with children and the elderly, she felt it would be a good skill to acquire.


We also spoke to a college student whose summer internship has been postponed. He has been learning to cook by making dinners for his family and has even perfected making homemade sourdough bread.

These are just two examples, but there are so many things your teenager might use this unexpected free time to learn. Maybe they have always wanted to learn to play golf, or sew, or knit, or play a musical instrument. The possibilities are endless. You can use some of these ideas to help them brainstorm.

2) Create something new.

A mother with two teenage sons told us she gave them “carte blanche” to redecorate their rooms. She was happy to report that they didn’t stop after painting their walls. They are now working on staining furniture, and building shelves.

We have also heard about teenagers who are building their own computers and others who are growing vegetables in backyard gardens.

Perhaps your teen loves to write. Now could be the perfect time for your teen to write that short story or even try his or her hand at writing a novel.

3) Turn your passion into a business.

We heard about two coffee-loving young adults who started experimenting with roasting coffee beans and making their own blends which they hope to sell.

We learned about a group of North Shore high school musicians who joined together to offer virtual music lessons to kids, and they are currently donating $5 from every lesson to a local food pantry. Find out more at https://www.kidsteachingmusic.com/.

We have also seen numerous teenagers posting on social media about their own day camps, various sports lessons and camps, and babysitting services which they are offering to small groups of neighborhood kids and individual families.

4) Volunteer

Volunteer opportunities abound if your teens get a little creative and know where to look. A teenager who just graduated from Deerfield High School is helping students write college essays through Waukegan to College, https://www.waukegantocollege.org/, an organization that helps first generation students prepare to attend four-year colleges or universities.

Another teen who used to volunteer in-person at a local nursing home is now making phone calls to its residents to check in on them and provide some friendly conversation.

We have heard of other teenagers and young adults who have been grocery shopping for elderly and immune-compromised people in their communities.

You can have your teens check websites like www.Volunteermatch.org to find local and virtual opportunities where they can start helping out right away.

5) Support a cause you believe in.

One local teen we know combined her passion for baking and her desire to help Black Lives Matter by selling her homemade french macaroons and donating all proceeds to BLM.

We talked to another young adult who is helping run a phone banking effort for GetUsPPE, a national non-profit organization that gets personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers. This organization needs many volunteers. You can find out more at www.GetUsPPE.org.

If you think your teen would be interested in increasing voter turnout, you could have them check out www.turnoutnation.org. This organization is looking for volunteers to encourage friends and family to vote.


6) Focus on self-care.

Many of our teenagers and young adults are used to leading fast-paced, often stressful, lives. This summer can be a great opportunity for them to simply slow down and practice taking care of themselves. You can encourage them to read a book, take a bubble bath, try yoga or meditation, or start running or bicycling. Or maybe you and your teenager can use this time to work on your relationship by joining a family counseling program, like the one we offer at Solutions Northshore. As long as they are not sleeping all the time, isolating in their rooms all day, or staring at a computer, television, or phone screen around the clock, some teenagers could benefit from some good old-fashioned rest and relaxation.

You know your teens best. If they function better with some structure and a sense of purpose, we hope these examples will help you start the conversation and guide your teens. Sometimes all our kids need are a few ideas and a little encouragement in order to find inspiration, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Links to Additional Volunteer Opportunities


Home of the Sparrow, Sparrow’s Nest Thrift Stores: http://www.hosparrow.org


Historic Wagner Farm, Glenview: www.glenviewparks.org/historicwagnerfarm/volunteer-opportunities/


Meals on Wheels, NE Illinois: https://mealsonwheelsnei.org/volunteer

American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Area: https://www.redcross.org/local/illinois/volunteer.html


JourneyCare, nonprofit provider of palliative care: https://journeycare.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/


Project Linus: https://www.projectlinus.org/

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