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Organize Your Teen's Summer

How Scheduling Can Help Organize Your Teen's Summer

Do you remember the lazy, hazy summer days of youth? Lying out by the lake, sleeping in, hanging out with friends? Well, those days are no more. Today's teens are faced with a dizzying array of summer choices, and many of those choices are geared toward preparing for their future. With so many options, it's often difficult to choose, and the logistics of who needs to be where at what time can be a nightmare.

Holly Beckman, mother of three from Tigard, Ore., has been juggling crammed summers ever since her first child became a teen, and now that her youngest is almost 16, the stress of juggling the calendar can be overwhelming.

"We have to start planning early," she says. "We get the calendar out sometime in January and have a family meeting. Everyone has a chance to talk about what's really important to them, and then we prioritize."

Sports take a top spot on the list as their son is a competitive football player with an eye toward scoring a scholarship. Family vacations also take priority. "We have a standing family reunion campout every year, but had to miss it last year because we decided as a family to take a longer more elaborate vacation and couldn't do both," Beckman says. "Usually, we pencil in the set items and then negotiate for the rest. This year both our remaining children will have to get jobs as well, so that complicates things further."

As her children get older, Ann Friedrick, of Scholls, Ore., and her family are planning more family activities. "Though we carefully take into consideration what the children would like to do, we're also trying to plan more getaways as a family," she says. "We're finding that our time together is short, so these trips hold more significance now."

Planning, Planning, Planning

Laura Hammond, editor-in-chief of Next Step Magazine, a monthly career and life-planning publication for high school students, says that teens who can get a job should. "Money of their own gives them a sense of ownership over their purchases and helps develop their maturity," she says. "Be sure your teen is clear with her employer about any vacations or other time off required. Other things for teens to consider doing over the summer include summer programs at local colleges, study-abroad programs through community colleges, campus tours the summer before junior year and also spending time with family before heading off to college."

According to Hammond, giving your teen the responsibility of having a job during the summer, going on campus tours and enrolling in summer programs will all help a teen practice crucial time-management skills. They need to learn how to handle responsibilities as well as making time for friends. "This doesn't mean they should necessarily be working 40-hour weeks in the summertime," she says. "But colleges respect teens who can handle a lot on their plates, including part-time work, and it is always better to brag about a job or internship to an admissions rep than to brag about how late you slept in each day."

Balance, Balance, Balance

Remember while planning that balance is key. Because of inexperience, many teens won't realize how easy it is to burn out. "Many teens are eager to take on all kinds of activities without realizing how quickly they might become overwhelmed," Hammond says. "Parents should reassure their teens that they don't have to do a million activities to be good candidates for college. Remind them that grades matter most in college admissions."

Sean Covey, author of The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens (Fireside, 2006), agrees. "I'd suggest that teens spend some of their summer months investing in themselves," he says. "What I'm talking about here is taking time to discover their niches, their voices. Maybe it's a volunteer activity, sports team or time abroad, but what's important is that teens are stretching themselves and discovering what it is that they really enjoy. The time spent during the summer months finding their voices is time well spent. Teens might happen to figure out what they want to do with their lives, and a teen with a vision is a very good thing."

Choices, Choices, Choices

Covey says he's never been a big fan of summers spent lounging on pool decks or locked in a basement playing video games. He believes that teens should enjoy their summers, but they should also have something to show for their time off. "I think a plan that centers itself around a variety of activities that help each teen fulfill his/her longtime goals is the key here," he says. "Maybe a trip to visit several college campuses or a different part of the country will do the trick. The point is to begin each summer with an end in mind, but don't forget to have fun and plan for a few lazy days at the pool."

The following are just a few choices for a teen's summer:

  • Sports Camps: If your teen is involved in a sport, check out what camps will increase his or her skills.
  • Summer Camps: At this age, teens are often excited to work at the same camps they have been attending for years. Check out and see if their camp has a councilor-in-training program and what the qualifications are.
  • Travel: There are a myriad of summer travel opportunities for a teen, from visiting Grandma to a formal group tour designed for teens to a summer/study program through a community college.
  • Internships: More and more companies are offering teen internships during the summer break. Is there a field your teen is interested in learning more about? Check out your local businesses and find out if they have internships available.

Volunteering can be a life-changing experience for your teen. There are many places that need help and are willing to train. "When we volunteer and help others, we learn much about ourselves and what we value in life," Covey says. "We learn to take advantage of all we have, and we learn to share our gifts and talents with others. When potential employers or universities or colleges see volunteering on an application, they know that you are committed to more than just yourself. It shows that you have a sense of responsibility and commitment to others."

Covey says that many teens struggle in school because they don't know what they can offer the world. He believes volunteering can open tons of doors for teenagers to discover what they're really passionate about.

Putting It Together

Before you can plan out a summer, your teen has to have long-term goals in mind. As an example, if your teen is considering majoring in pre-veterinary medicine, you can approach the summer from different ways:

  • Volunteer for local animal shelters.
  • Try to find a job at a veterinarian office or a pet store.
  • Visit some colleges with good pre-veterinary programs.
  • Schedule in some down time and some family trips.

By keeping their interests in mind, you can help them plan a summer that is not only beneficial for their future, but also fun and memorable.

Helpful Tips for Planning Teen Summers

  • Help them make out some long-term goals.
  • Help them plan some short-term (by the end of summer) goals
  • Have a family meeting and discuss family trips. Pencil in any camps, mission trips or reunions that are not negotiable.
  • Does your teen need to get a job? Take into consideration their schedule and long-term goals before job hunting. This will give you a good idea of what kind of job they are looking for.
  • Remember to keep in mind deadlines for camp counseling applications, camp or travel registrations, etc.

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