Now that you have a teenager in the house, you can look back on how easy it seemed to keep younger children busy over the summer. A trip to the beach, a bucket of mud in the yard, summer camp at the zoo — all easy and fun ways to keep young children occupied. But what is that 15-year-old going to do when school lets out? Middle and high school students seem to fall into a black hole when it comes to summer activities. Add in their changing moods, stronger interests and need for sleep, and that bucket of mud doesn’t cut it anymore. Here are 10 things teens can do to stay motivated and even inspired during the summer months. Good luck!
1. GET A JOB. Grocery stores, restaurants and pools will hire teens, but teens should get an early start looking for a summer job in our slow economy. One place to start is the Teen Portal Web site operated by the City of Seattle (www.cityofseattle.net/teen/). This site connects to teen programs, local community and arts events, homework help, health information and summer job opportunities. Also look into nannying or mother’s helper jobs, dog walking or gardening. A summer job not only looks good on college applications, it gives teens experience that can look good to future employers. Remind them that it is an investment in their future, even though they may view washing dishes or wiping noses as just a way to quit asking you for money. Check this Web site for regulations on hours and hiring practices for teenagers: www.dol.gov/esa/whd/state/nonfarm.htm.
2. GO TO CAMP. For many parents of younger children, summer camp provides desperately needed child care when summer comes. There are so many choices for preschoolers and elementary school students that the hard part is choosing between options. But as children get older (and more opinionated), their interests become more defined and options narrow. Still, private schools, community centers, arts academies, sports organizations and even colleges offer interesting teen programs. The American Association of Camps maintains a list of accredited camps on its Northwest Web site (www.acacamps.org/evergreen/), but there are all kinds of other local programs including afternoon sailing camps at Green Lake (www.seattle.gov/parks/events/summercityboating.htm), rowing camps on Lake Union (www.lakeunioncrew.com) or playwriting camp at Lakeside School (www.lakesideschool.org).
3. TAKE A CLASS. Although Seattle Public Schools only offers summer school for students needing to retrieve credits, there are lots of other options. Many private schools offer summer learning opportunities for older kids. A good resource for this is the Pacific Northwest Independent School Association Web site (www.pnais.org) for programs that may interest your child. Offerings include sports, computer science, language, math and dance.
4. VOLUNTEER. Is your teen inspired by President Obama and his call to service? Keep that enthusiasm alive by encouraging them to find something they like to do and will help the community. Local museums, the Woodland Park Zoo, the Pacific Science Center, the City of Seattle and libraries all offer special volunteer opportunities for teenagers. If your child has been attending a camp as a camper, look into having them work there as a counselor or counselor in training. Most high school students have to fulfill a service learning requirement for graduation, and summer is the perfect time for community service.
5. LEARN TO COOK. Believe it or not, those little babies you once held in your arms will be on their own in a few short years. Do you really want to send them into the world only knowing how to order take-out or make microwave pizza? Ask your teen or tween to be responsible for one meal a week for your family. Teach them how to plan and shop for the meal. Setting a budget can add an extra challenge and keep spending in check. Help them get started, but let them do most of the work. You may be surprised how quickly they pick up cooking for themselves. Then, when they are off in the world, you won’t have to worry about them deriving all their nutrition from instant ramen.
6. GET SOME SLEEP. Really. School is hard, growing up is hard, life can be hard. Kids between the ages of 11 and 18 go through so many physical and hormonal changes, and a big one is shifting sleep patterns. According to a report by the National Sleep Foundation, adolescents and pre-adolescents need 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep, yet a typical high schooler’s natural bedtime shifts to 11 p.m. Try to let them sleep in a bit during the summer if possible to make up for the rest they don’t get during the school year.
7. LEARN LIFE SKILLS. Have teens enroll in a first aid, CPR or a babysitting class. Teach them how to balance a checkbook and manage their money. All of these skills are part of a basic survival kit everyone should have before they turn eighteen.
8. DO SOMETHING SILLY. One summer, my son decided to try to watch all of the “Twilight Zone” episodes, thanks to a bulk rental program our local video store was offering. On a hot day, or a long evening, nothing beats a four-hour marathon of Rod Serling’s best. Introduce your kids to classic films or old television shows. Think of it as an education in the pop culture of your youth.
9. CLEAN HIS OR HER ROOM. (Well, we can dream can’t we?)
10. GO ON FAMILY OUTINGS. The hardest part about having a teenager is realizing how soon they will be gone, so seize the moment while you can. Take advantage of our region’s beautiful parks, beaches and mountains and spend some time in the great outdoors together. They may complain the whole time, but then again, they might not.
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