Constructive Activities for the Summer

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June 14, 2010 by middleearthnj

Summer!  You can almost hear the teens squealing with delight at the thought of no school and no responsibilities. It is an excellent time for your child to rest and recover from the regimented school schedule.  However, parents need to guard against boredom. Summer can be a risky time for teens as well. Teens with more downtime run a higher risk for falling into the wrong pastimes. For example, according to a recent Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report, each day in June and July, approximately 5,800 teens try marijuana for the first time. But the troubles don’t stop there — incidences of first-time cigarette or alcohol use for underage kids also spike during the summer months. Juvenile crime also increases. Teenagers who are unsupervised throughout the summer have many opportunities to get in trouble.

Even though it’s impossible to monitor your teenager every hour of the day, there are some things parents can do to make a difference in a teen’s decisions. Productive activities offer enormous benefit to teens. Besides keeping teens busy and out of trouble, they build self-confidence and promote healthy relationships.

Ideas for Summer Activities

Summer camp. Although summer camps can be pricey, the benefits are well worth the cost. There is no better way to make constructive use of free time than learning something new – a new skill, exploring an unfamiliar place, meeting new people. Summer camps are usually very fun and teach all sorts of valuable skills that your child won’t get in school. For example, wilderness camps emphasize responsibility, self-awareness, teamwork, and communication, and challenge teens to achieve their personal best. Teens are introduced to a new group of peers and learn to relate to people of all backgrounds. They live in a structured, highly supervised environment, which helps teens gain perspective on life at home and build self-confidence and hope for a brighter future.

Youth programs. Community youth centers (such as those offered by Middle Earth) and other youth clubs are an excellent way to engage your teen during their out of school time.  Besides being in a safe and supervised place, teens meet new friends, learn new skills, and are exposed to a variety of fun activities that they would otherwise not have access to. If your child has a particular interest – whether it’s computers, extreme sports, art, photography, dance, politics, or a career interest – clubs are a great way to meet new people who share the same goals and interests.

Sports programs. Check out your local YMCA to see what sports programs or fitness programs are going on over the summer. Exercise is great for kids of all ages and you may find a sport your child is interested in. Participation on a sports team can vary from lessons to competitive and can last from a week to the whole summer. Look into the school gyms, community centers and churches – sometimes they have “free gym” time where kids can go play basketball.

Local pool. Many communities and neighborhoods have pools that are available for members or residents.

Family time. Take trips to a local museum, beach, park, baseball game, or zoo – anything that would interest your children. Plan a supervised camping trip with friends. Consider visiting some colleges that your teen might consider in the future.

Classes. Visit your local parks and recreation department to see what classes are being offered for teens. Your child may learn a new skill or hone in on a new hobby. Consider dance, art, cooking, sewing, music lessons, or other ventures.

Volunteer. A healthy and proactive way to keep your child busy during summer vacation is to help them find the perfect volunteer job. There are likely many places in your community that really do need help. Many volunteer jobs are flexible and can allow your child to work from 1 hour once a week to daily. Interview several different volunteer jobs to find the best fit for your child. Options include animal shelters, halfway houses, nursing homes, churches, homeless shelters, soup kitchens or doing yard work for an elderly neighbor. Community service can keep teens occupied while developing a sense of purpose, self-confidence, and personal responsibility. In addition to teaching teens the joy of giving back, volunteer work looks great on college applications and resumes. You can find many volunteer jobs by your local newspaper, online resources, and the local library.

Part-time job. Many parents find internships or small tasks for their children to do at their place of employment, or you can help your teen apply to local grocery stores, restaurants, retail stores, local car washes, or pet care facilities. Preteens can also earn extra money babysitting, doing yard work, pet care, house-sitting, and other odd jobs. Teens can become camp counselors at camps for smaller children. Part-time work helps teens budget, make friends, comply with authority, develop a strong work ethic, and learn the value of a dollar.

Reinforcement!

Summer can be a fun time, but parents must guard against their teens using their downtime for destructive purposes. To protect against bad choices, parents should: set clear rules with established consequences; take time to understand and communicate openly with your teen; engage your children in positive activities; monitor your teen’s activities and behaviors; and reserve time for family.

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