Help! What Can My Teen Do This Summer?

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“Help!” The cry of parents can be heard across the country as summer approaches. First everyone has to calm down and get a grip. Yes, your kids are out of school for a break, but that doesn’t mean they must be lying around your house watching TV, playing computer games, or using their cell phone’s entire data plan. Actually this fear can be turned into a very good question: “What can my teen do this summer?”
The key to this question is the word “can”. There are a lot of summer options for all ages of teens. Teens, but especially younger teens can work in the neighborhood by babysitting, mowing lawns, pet sitting, or helping neighbors with improvement projects at their homes. Older teens can work in businesses in the community for pay. I highly recommend all kids work during the summer in some way or another. Some jobs may involve payment of money. The jobs that pay money are required to follow the child labor laws of that state. Parents need to watch and make sure that their teen is not being treated unfairly. I would suggest opening a bank account for the summer money, with a prearranged agreement between parent and student on how much money can be spent at the end of the summer and what it can be spent on.
Some of the best work experiences for teens are in the form of Internships. Internships are an excellent work opportunity for an older teen that would not necessarily pay money, but would be a tremendous opportunity to put on a resume or college application. Many businesses or medical offices will allow a teen to “volunteer” and get great experience in their field of interest. Just being in the work environment will be eye-opening. What a great way for a student to try out a career that interests him prior to committing and declaring a major in college. Many internship opportunities can be found through family connections in the community, but some are more prestigious and require an application. If it is too late for this summer, make a note of how and when the prestigious internship’s application is available and get it in for next summer!
Another summer opportunity is more school! If a student is failing a class or falling behind on course credits, then summer school is the mandatory answer. School is the student’s work first and foremost, and if he is not doing his school work then he cannot do other work. Most schools offer summer school. However, if the student was planning to be away during the summer, perhaps to the other parent’s house, then it is good to know that if the school in the other city is accredited then summer school credit taken there will transfer back to the student’s home school. There should be no way to wiggle out of making up a failed class grade or credit over the summer.
Another great summer opportunity is camp. Camp can combine work and fun. There are tons of camps of every sort: academic camps offered through schools or universities, religious or church camps, sports camps through a school, athletic organization, or the community, and camps for other interests such as art, music, or outdoor activities. Many camps cost fees, but there are many camp scholarships available for application.
The bottom line is teens should not be sitting at home all summer while their parents work. That is a recipe for disaster. They need to begin to understand the concept of work each and every summer of their teen years. This is an important piece of their education; in fact, working in the summer can be just as important as classes during the school year. Work can be fun and lifetime support relationships can be made during a summer opportunity. Who doesn’t need another adult in their life to teach them, encourage them, and support them as they grow? I know I had these relationships in the community as a teen, and I still keep in touch with some of my past mentors.
As a guidance counselor, I worked with one family that both parents worked full time and they did not want their two sons sitting around all summer unsupervised. The parents got busy connecting, networking, and looking into community summer opportunities. The older son “volunteered” in a research lab at the local university. The first two years he washed test tubes, did a lot of work no one else wanted to, and observed. The last two years he was allowed to begin to participate in the research work. This four summer experience was instrumental in being award the biggest scholarship award in the state. The younger son began to “volunteer” at the local community center teaching senior citizens about cell phones, the internet, and computer classes. At the same time, he began to work on his own cell phone application. Before you knew it, he was a senior in high school launching his own app! And yes, this earned him the largest scholarship award in the state also.
So parents, take a deep breath and think, “What can my kid do this summer?”

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