Building Teen Summer Experiences That Pay Off
Nancy Berk, Ph.D. is the author of College Bound and Gagged: How To Help Your Kid Get Into A Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind. She speaks and writes extensively about surviving the college-bound process. A clinical psychologist, comic, professor, and parent, she is a blogger for The Huffington Post, USA TODAY College, and MORE Magazine. Nancy is the mom of one college graduate and one college freshman; both believe their aunt is much cooler than she is.
In a teen world, it’s not unusual for the exuberant anticipation of summer to be replaced by the “I’m bored” attitude. This attitude is reflected in the common phrase, “There’s nothing to do,” and usually results in an onslaught of parental suggestions. All suggestions are immediately shut down by a teen who labels each as “lame” or “ridiculous.” Auntie to the rescue! Yes, there’s a way to help your nieces and nephews build summer experiences that pay off. These five focal points will help keep the whining at bay and boost their college-bound skill sets.
1. Focus on Skill Building
Investigate summer lessons, courses, camps and programs that will build a teen’s skills and talents. From computers to filmmaking and photography to creative writing, teens will return to school with an enhanced ability to showcase their talents. University summer programs offer excellent opportunities to experience campus life and can give students a jump start on college courses. Some can be pricey, so check out the details before pitching the idea to teens. Note: Some schools offer scholarship opportunities for students who can demonstrate financial need.
2. Get Creative—Give Back
Identify volunteer opportunities (or help create new ones) that incorporate teen interests. For example, if your nephew loves magic, help him think outside of the box to create a magic program for a children’s hospital or retirement community. If your niece is a gifted volleyball player, suggest she contact local recreation centers for summer teaching opportunities. Encourage her to be prepared to discuss how she could create a unique and popular class if one doesn’t exist.
3. Embrace the Power of Trial and Error
Remind your niece or nephew about the value in all experiences. A wonderful summer job, class or volunteer experience can help identify career paths and connections. A horrible one can be even more valuable because it can identify the wrong path. If working at the hospital was unbearable, perhaps being a pre-med major isn’t such a great idea. Shifting gears now is easier than later realizing your dream job is a nightmare.
4. Explore Backyard Opportunities
Use this summer to visit a local college campus with your niece or nephew. If a scheduled tour isn’t possible, roam campus on your own. Have lunch at a student hangout. Visit the book store if it is open. Then begin college conversations based on the experience. Whether he or she is interested in local or distant higher education options, this visit can help identify campus preferences related to size and environment. Their parents will love you for this conversation starter.
5. Venture outside the Parent Zone
Let’s face it, just because you are siblings doesn’t mean that your interests match those of your brother or sister. Schedule enjoyable activities with your nieces and nephews that let their parents “off the hook.” If Mom and Dad hate hiking, documentaries or sushi, make that your cue to step in and schedule a play date. Introducing new experiences to your niece or nephew will broaden teen perspectives and enhance your auntie status as the cooler, worldly family member. It might drive your siblings crazy, but that could be a bonus. Happy Summer!
Published: June 26, 2012