Ah, summer break. You might remember the magic of getting out of school at the end of May or beginning of June, taking a deep breath, and knowing that there was nothing but freedom for months. (If you’re an educator like me, you still know this sweet feeling, although to a smaller extent because, alas – adulting comes with responsibility.)
But how do you keep your teens from becoming couch potatoes? I have had a parent or two lament to me that when their kids are home for the summer, this unbridled free time is a little too, well, free. Although a mental break is healthy for kids (and parents), so is some structure. Maintaining some routines and responsibilities during the summer months will keep you and your kids happier and healthier. Here are some starter ideas:
Kids of all ages can look for jobs. If they’re older and can drive, opportunities are endless. The hourly wage for teenagers is pretty good here in western ND! They can work at restaurants and coffee shops, for Parks & Rec, as a nanny, in retail, as a farmhand, weed sprayer, or tree planter… you get the idea. Many businesses, such as some restaurants and retailers, hire kids as young as 14; to work as a lifeguard for Parks & Rec, students need to be at least 15. Do find out your local curfew laws.
For younger teens and pre-teens, opportunities may be a little more limited, but there are still ways to keep them busy and productive. Babysitting is an obvious choice. I’ve also had several younger students run successful businesses mowing lawns, doing yard work, walking dogs, making and selling bracelets, and even raising chickens! If your child can walk or ride a bike, there are likely jobs they can do.
Best of all, teenagers love to have their own money, so that productivity comes with a reward!
Kids can, and should, help around the house because they are members of the family. They don’t necessarily need to be paid for this, either, but if you want them to, say, watch their little siblings full-time while you are at work and forgo a paying job, then it might be fair to give them a wage. Either way, they should be expected to chip in on a pretty regular basis.
Encourage your teenager to do something fun over the summer. If they’re the athletic type, playing sports is a good way to keep them active and busy. Many communities offer art classes periodically (check out your local Parks & Rec page; in Watford City check out the Long X Foundation at https://www.longxarts.com/). Other popular activities include 4-H – there are many clubs in western North Dakota – as well as youth gardening, summer camps, and other programs through your public library or Parks & Rec such as Science Rocks and Summer Excursions.
Finally, find ways to help your kid stay mentally sharp over the summer and continue their education. It doesn’t have to be actual summer school, although the North Dakota Center for Distance Education, our state’s accredited online school, does offer a lot of great classes at $169 per half credit. Other options might be taking Driver’s Ed, using Kahn Academy’s free learning program, or tackling a teen summer reading list (Google it!)
Regardless of what your teen is interested in, there are multiple ways to keep him or her busy, occupied, and productive over the summer – mixed in with a little relaxing, of course!