Summer is on its way, and if you’re the parent of a high schooler, you’re probably starting to think about what they’re going to be spending all that free time doing. How do you give them the freedom they need to refresh and avoid burnout, but also keep them challenged, mentally engaged and building a narrative that will set them apart for their future college ambitions?
Here are some foundational tips to help you connect and collaborate with your teen to plan for an incredible summer.
The first and most important thing you can do is listen to your child. You may have had it mapped out since they started kindergarten and know exactly what you want them to do this summer and the next and the next after that. But this is a crucial time where your guidance is more valuable to their development than your demands. So, make space for real conversations. When you ask a question, don’t have the answer you want already formed in your mind. Lay your goals and desires down so you can hear theirs. If having time to play video games is important to them, let it be important to you, too, and prioritize it in the plan. Feeling heard and considered is crucial for your teen taking ownership of their future.
Your kid is great at something. In fact, they’re probably great at a lot of somethings. Spend some time reviewing and assessing the things they’re already amazing at. Let them hear your pride and delight as you take inventory of their skills and accomplishments. Give them a safe space to brag on themselves and explore the things they feel confident in. Find out which of those areas pique their interest for further development, and let those strengths help drive the rest of the conversation.
Identifying the things your child is good at is a great start, but it doesn’t always reveal the things they are the most passionate about. Find out what pulls on their heart strings. What activities bring them joy? What causes do they really care about? What things are they curious about that they’ve never had a chance to explore?
Once you’ve explored your teen’s wishes, accomplishments, and passions, you can start dreaming together about how these pursuits might shape up into actual summer plans. Look into what opportunities are available and which could make sense for your family’s finances, geography, and schedule. Consider service opportunities, internships, college prep programs, camps, independent projects, travel opportunities, classes, workshops, and competitions – and think outside the box! We’ve gathered a bunch of ideas here to help get you started.
Chances are, your student is going to find more opportunities than they have time for. Make a pro and con list to help you identify which ones make the absolute most sense for your student and your family. Then, make a realistic plan that leaves plenty of space for your kid to be a kid. Remember that they need rest, fun, and connection with family and friends as much as they need challenge and engagement — so be sure to plan accordingly. A summer packed with opportunity can end up being more problematic than beneficial if it isolates or burns them out for their next academic year.
Have fun and make sure they’re having fun! Keep an eye on your teen as the summer progresses. If you realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, help them identify and reprioritize. Learning to balance between keeping commitments and reprioritizing for healthy boundaries is a skill they’ll use for the rest of their life.
Inspiring students to grab hold of their future is what we’re passionate about, and we’ve developed lots of resources to help you do it. Our free Guide to Summer Planning is full of strategies, ideas, and interactive tools to help you and your student make the most of the coming months.
We also invite you to watch our free webinar, “Capturing Your Story: How to Write a Powerful College Essay that Captures You and Captivates Them” where our panel of experts will discuss how to write a powerful college essay that captures you and captivates colleges.
Lastly, wherever you are in the process, we’re here to help. We’ve been helping students reach their greatest potential for years, and we’d love a chance to help yours. Whether they are struggling and need help getting over an academic hump, thriving and want to make the most of their momentum, or anywhere in between, we have a team of people who care and are amazing at what they do. Contact us here to start the conversation.