Updated: May 22, 2021
Prepare your teens with real life opportunities and challenges that promote leadership, improve resilience, build life skills and produce empathy. Instead of planning out their summer for them, why not brainstorm some ideas together?
First things first. Before you map out any plan in life, you need to know where you are going. There needs to be a destination, or a goal so you can work out the steps of how to get there. You could begin asking your teens what they would like to achieve by the end of the summer? You may need to help them find a goal and encourage creativity as they get inspired and motivated.
Here are some questions you could ask:
Look back at last summer.
What did you learn?
What frustrated you?
How different do you want THIS summer to be compared to last summer?
What things, projects or activities do you wish you had more time for, but you never seem to get down to it?
How are you looking to grow as a person this summer? (character)
What have you secretly always wanted to try but just never had the courage?
If nothing was standing in your way, describe a picture of your ideal summer.
If you had this summer to come up with a solution to a problem (in the community, school, family, neighborhood, friends), how would you plan your summer?
What do you care deeply about?
What are your goals for this summer?
When using questions, be careful of making it sound like "interrogation." Remember you are brainstorming together, creating a summer in alignment with their values and interests. You will not ask all the above questions - these questions are simply examples of possibilities.
Questions help to uncover values and heart motivations as you get a glimpse of what your teen really cares about. Now you may think that your teen will just want to be a couch potato, blob around, watch movies and message friends on social media all day? Your children do need to unwind but if you ask curious questions that challenge them to dig deeper and to think beyond themselves, I believe that teens will get excited about discovering new ideas to experience so they will be more accomplished by the end of the summer break.
I don`t believe teens choose to be lazy and unproductive. They need to know where they want to go and why they want to go there. Then inspiration will follow. They need guidance and encouragement to tap into their ideas of possibilities to express their creativity - a natural part of who they are.
They need to be challenged to discover more purpose and direction. To move forward, they need to explore possibilities, contemplate summer goals so they have a reason and a destination. Then they will know where they want to go, and they can plan their next steps. A clearer destination will get them off the couch! Self-discovery leads to a “reason” which leads to excitement which leads to action.
Encourage goals that stretch and grow your teen as a person. Teach about failure and how to have a growth mindset to failure. All successful people experience failure and "failing forward" as they learn from past failures. A healthy mindset to failure will help them to step out of comfort zones and give them courage to try new things. Failure happens permanently when they don`t try.
If your teens need a more specific plan, challenge them to think of one thing under each category or their chosen categories:
New skills or learning (take an online graphic design class, learn marketing with social media)
Special Projects (clean out closets, paint a room, sort photos, have a garage sale)
Neighborhood outreach (take cookies to someone, invite someone for tea)
Problems to solve (everyday problems or bigger ones,)
Something to fix (pump bike wheels, fix up old furniture)
Character traits to work on (patience, responsible,trustworthy)
Game designing (video or board games)
New friends to make
Social events to plan (picnics in the park, movie nights, hike with friends)
Family trips to coordinate (beach, national parks, walks, camping, museums, field trips)
Family fun nights to plan
Bad habits to change (sleep, exercise, nutrition)
New recipes to learn
Books to read
Videos to film
Art or design projects
Interviews to conduct (practice with people you know)
Business ventures to explore
Job shadowing and more.
A goal in itself could be to complete one thing in each category or choose at least 5 chosen categories. Now that`s a great challenge! Your family could celebrate a successful accomplishment and plan a special event together once the goal is achieved.
"Children support what they help create" Dr Tim Elmore
Ideas for Summer activities that improve emotional intelligence, life skills and maturity into adulthood:
1. Community and volunteer work:
What needs are there in your community, church or neighborhood? Are there elderly people who need help with yard work, cleaning or general lifting and organizing? Are there young working families who need help with baby sitting or playing games with their children? Perhaps your local library needs volunteers to sign up to read to kids or organize activities for them? Check out your local non profit organizations (SPCA) and see if you can sign up? All these activities help build empathy and add value.
2. Family involvement:
Challenge your teen to plan and cook a dinner once a week, plan a family social event or organize the family camping or vacation trip. These activities build ownership, servant leadership, planning and creativity skills.
Think of a worthy cause and hold a "car wash service" in your neighborhood, bake sale, yard sale or lemonade stand and raise funds for this cause. It may be raising funds for a family in need or a charity. This builds altruism and work ethic.
Encourage your teen to start their own business around their interests. Self knowledge and self learning is very powerful because it is intrinsically inspired as opposed to prescribed. We are naturally born curious and inquisitive about the world around us. Give your teen opportunities to explore business possibilities. Starting a business cultivates so many social, emotional and intellectual abilities that help growth and maturity into adulthood. Not to mention critical thinking and a grater self-awareness with regards to abilities, character and gifting.
5. Creative ideas:
Encourage creativity, thinking out the box and having the courage to try new things. Ideas could be redecorating a bedroom, growing a veggie garden, taking art or music lessons, starting a You tube channel, making videos, starting a blog, launching a new summer club, or inventing a new board game.
6. Work, internships and job shadowing:
A first job is always a big deal! Encourage your teen to find a summer job, even if it is a cleaning job in a restaurant. Hard jobs grow character and teach resilience. The sooner your teens realize that they cannot start at the "top" and it takes hard work and perseverance to "climb the job ladder," the sooner they will actually get to the top of the "ladder!" Future employers and business partners look for people with humility, perseverance and the ability to work hard in any situation.
Getting a first job is no easy task and while your teen is searching, I suggest helping them find mentors who can inform, support and train them in understanding required tasks in certain vocations. Job shadowing will also provide experience and knowledge of what a "typical day" looks like in that field. Ask your friends if they know of anyone who would be willing to allow your teen to work alongside them and expose them to different career possibilities. Part time jobs, internships or job shadowing helps develop skills in money management, real work experiences, character development and promotes more independence. Work experiences also provide more clarity with regards to career direction and future planning with more intentionality and confidence.
7. Summer Camps:
There are so many summer camps to choose from and I would suggest choosing a camp that is inline with your teens summer goals and objectives. Camps include sports camps, christian camps, leadership camps, wilderness camps and many others. Meeting new people and improving social skills, getting out of comfort zones and all round life skill development occurs during camp activities.
I don`t recommend any "school" related activities during the summer or "catch up" and "filling in the gaps." If your teens have a productive plan and intentional summer goal in mind, then they will be learning and growing in so many ways that prepare them for adulthood and real life.
A coach will help your teen plan summer activities and decide on an intentional summer goal. A coach also supports your teen in following through on actions with accountability and encouragement so goals are reached. I work one-on-one and coach according to unique needs.
Here`s to a productive, purposeful and peaceful summer to you and your family!