Woo-hoo! Summer vacation is almost here!

No more homework battles. No more dragging the teens out of bed at crazy early hours. No more days filled with middle school drama!

As much as I find myself counting down the days to freedom right along with my teen, I also get a little panicked about what summer will really bring. Will he sleep all day, play on his phone until dinner, and then expect to hang out with friends all night? How do I get him moving and keep him busy?

We all know that eat, sleep, and exercise are the foundations of keeping us physically healthy, but many people forget that these three choices also keep us emotionally healthy. Teens tend to fall way off track on all three of these, especially in the summer. They sleep more, which is actually great, but their sleep cycle quickly morphs into that of a nocturnal creature.

They stop eating consistently like they had to during the school year. No breakfast, lunch around 2 p.m. when they wake up, chips while hanging out with friends, and then they’re starving at midnight and eat anything they can find.

Repeat that for three months and you’ve got a pretty nutritionally starved human being on your hands. Hopefully, they continue to exercise, but sadly, the sleep and eat pattern they adapt zaps them of any energy and the biggest movement a lot of teens make in the summer is from the bed to the couch.

I wish I started every summer with color-coded chore charts and enriching, fun activities planned throughout the week. But that’s not me. I mean well, I just don’t always follow through on those great ideas. I’m lazy – sometimes I really don’t mind if they play on their phone all day, because I want to play on my phone, too.

So here’s my lazy-mom plan for summer survival with teens. Don’t worry – it only contains four basic rules. That’s it. I only have to keep track of four things, they only have to follow through with four things.

Sounds good to me!

1 | Eat

My teens need to eat breakfast by 9 am. If they want to roll out of bed at 8:59 and grab a granola bar, great! But they eat food by 9 am. This assures that their body is being signaled to wake up and start functioning.

2 | Sleep

My teens have to get at least 9 hours a sleep a night. (I see you doing the calculations right now. Yep, in bed by midnight – totally reasonable.) Ideally, they go to bed when you need to go to bed to function for work the next day, but this is worst case scenario! Midnight. Consistently, all summer, no later than midnight! (feel free to make this 10 PM and wake up time no later than 8, or whatever works for your family)

3 | Exercise

My teens have to do something physically active. Every. Single. Day. Bike somewhere. Walk the dog. Hike. Play tennis with friends. Workout video in the basement. Play! Ideally, it’s something they love and want to do naturally. But if a day comes and they have nothing planned, I want them to get creative, have fun, and figure it out. Move everyday!

4 | Do chores

Being productive, helping, contributing: Way easier said than done. Trust me, I know. But it is so very important for teens to learn life skills, contribute to the day-to-day functioning of their family, master real skills, feel competent to handle adult responsibilities, and make adult decisions. Summer is the best time to do some intensive adult training.

Your teens can still help with dishes and clean their bathrooms or whatever their regular chores are, but summer is also a time to give them bigger, bolder responsibilities, for instance:

  • They could mow the lawn.
  • They could cook dinner for the family.
  • They could do the laundry done and put it away.
  • They could clean out and organize their own closet, as well as the hallway closet.
  • They could babysit their siblings and actually interact.

Give them big jobs and they’ll learn that they can master those jobs!