Say This, Not That

Structure in Summer

Dear Ilana and Jess: During the school year, my family is a well-oiled machine. Come summer, all of our routines seem to unravel. My seventeen-year-old son, Abe, sleeps all day. I literally can’t get him out of bed. My fourteen-year-old twins go to camp for half the day, then they’re home with me, bored out of their minds. I dread the summer every year. How do I fix this? - Tori

Dear Tori: It’s common for families to lose their rhythm in the summer. But, what you’re describing is a total breakdown of structure. Let’s tackle one thing at a time to get the machine up and running again.

First, anytime there’s potential for a health-related concern, we always advise speaking with a medical professional. Before you treat Abe’s poor sleep habits like a behavioral problem, make sure that’s what they are. (For the sake of this column, we’re writing under the assumption that he has no medical issues impacting his sleep.)

Now is the perfect time for Abe to get a summer job that gets him out of bed in the morning (or, at least before noon). Make employment a requirement, so he doesn’t shirk the task. At 17, Abe will want money to spend on gas, his friends, etc. If you’re the source of his cash flow, put a lid on it. If Abe’s working for allowance, make on-time wakeup necessary for earning. You’ll be the bad guy in the short-term, but in the long-term, you’re helping him help himself.

At 14, your twins are old enough to get involved in the community. Once a week, sit down together as a family to make a list of ideas for afternoon activities. You can reach out to your local library, town recreation center, YMCA, and/or Boys & Girls Club to ask about recreational and volunteer opportunities (see last week’s column for more ideas). If you find a summer program the twins are interested in, you may not need another meeting!

Finally, remember that it’s not your responsibility to keep your kids entertained. As they get older, it’s important that they learn to entertain themselves.

Say This: “Once a week, we’re going to sit down together and plan at least two things for you to do when you get out of camp in the afternoon. I’m going to give you some ideas, and I’d like you to each come up with two of your own.”

Not That: “You say you can’t wait until summer, then when summer gets here, you’re bored.”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit:


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