This is a great time of year to begin collaborating with your teen about summer plans. Without this planning the odds are higher that your teen’s summer will be spent doing things that aren’t helpful (e.g., floating in a sea of electronic lethargy). In case you some work yet to do along these lines, I can offer four tips.
#1. As has been the case for other teen topics I’ve reviewed on this blog, it’s good to front load empathy, open-ended questions and validating comments in the discussion and to consider you and your teen as partners in this planning. One of my favorite strategies is to have these discussions in restaurants: it’s usually a pleasant context, everyone is less likely to lose it and it’s harder to run out on the discussion. (Entering the search term “teen communication” above will generate a list of related articles.)
#2. One of my favorite summer activities for older teens is to do an internship. There are multiple upsides: (1) college admissions officers favorably interpret this activity (e.g., as a sign of a person who takes initiative), (2) your teen can get some clarity about a possible career, (3) supervisors on the internship can become authors of letters of recommendation and (4) your teen can learn and advance a plethora of work-related skills. I’ve found that many professionals and organizations are remarkably generous in their willingness to sponsor teen interns; it just takes your teen generating the resolve to ask (and not mom or dad). (Take this next thought with a grain of salt, but it has been my personal experience that college admissions officers do not value traditional part-time jobs as highly as they do internships.)
#3. It’s also important to make a plan for when your teen will go to bed and rise. Without this, many unscheduled teens will morph into a vampire sleep schedule. Similarly, it’s advisable to figure out how your teen can get at least one hour a day of physical activity. Finally, it’s always a good general rule of thumb to know and approve of the following: where your teen is, what s/he is doing, who s/he is with and what responsible adult is doing the monitoring.
#4. Many teens also need to use part of the summer to advance an academic agenda. This might be studying for SATs or ACTs, doing assigned summer reading or remediating a learning disability or other academic lag. Many teens may need a contract to be consistent with this (e.g., so many hours of productive academic work earns access to the cellphone). For parents who are struggling with discipline, see Chapter Five of my parenting book or this blog entry.