And as I think back, makes me wonder how
The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia
All the kids playing out front
Little boys messin’ round with the girls playin’ double-dutch.
–Will Smith, “Summertime”
As parents, we look back fondly at the summer jobs we had: day camp counselor, lifeguard, dishwasher, pizza delivery guy, grocery stocker, ice cream scooper. We are nostalgic about summertime friends, beach-time, and picnics. We hope for that combination of freedom and purpose for our kids. So, it pains us when they are drawn to their phones, their video games, their quiet rooms. It frustrates us when the jobs we did at 14 and 15 are now reserved for 16 or 18+.
While our parents just let us loose, it feels like we have to be more deliberate to make the best of summers today. So, while acknowledging these won’t work for every teen, we offer a list of ideas to help keep our teens out of their rooms and engaged when school lets out:
- Invite the families in your neighborhood to a recurring Sunday potluck barbecue and have your teenagers run games for the younger kids.
- Work with your teen now to find a summer job or start a babysitting business. If it’s an outdoor job, all the better. (They can check out the Job Board in Post-Grad.)
- Or, encourage your teen to apply for a volunteer gig. There are great opportunities all over town. Museums, parks, etc. The South Suburban Parks & Recreation District has both jobs and a VolunTeen program your teen can apply to: https://www.ssprd.org/Portals/0/VolunTeen/2014%20Program%20Info%20Sheet.pdf.
- Set aside no-technology family time to sit outside after dinner any night they are home.
- Go camping. Get them to plan the trip.
- Put them in charge of your gardening.
- Select a good book and read it at the same time your high school student does. Try to talk about it.
- Assign them one dinner to cook each week.
- Register them for a summer class. Anything that interests them.
- Take walks together. Kids tend to talk more when they are moving.