There are several steps parents can take to help tweens and young teens get off to a great start at their activities this summer. Whether your kids are heading off to day camp, a new volunteer experience, summer school, or another opportunity, these are small, easy things that parents can do to help their kids have a great summer experiences.
* Confirm the drop-off procedures in person ahead of time.
Last year, my daughter hopped out of the car and cruised on into the camp where she was volunteering. It got to the point where I barely had to slow the car down. Easy peasy.
This year, my daughter is volunteering at the arboretum's day camp and I planned to do the same thing. At the last minute, though, I decided to confirm that they had all her registration materials.
It's a good thing I did. Turns out that she needs to be signed in and out. Every single time. Not only do I have to use the brakes, I have to go so far as to put the car in park, wait in line, and officially turn her over. Not a problem, but it would have been a problem if I'd just driven off.
* Help them get comfy with introducing themselves and making small talk.
Reviewing how to introduce yourself, even if it's a simple, "Hello, I'm Jack," can be helpful. Tweens and teens sometimes forget how to do that or get nervous. A quick role play an remind them how easy it is.
This article offers tips on helping teens with friendships, including "[p]ractice having light, casual conversations about easy topics such as music, activities outside of school, or homework. Help them learn how to keep it positive, and promote the value of listening more than they speak."
* Set goals, and share your own.
My daughter was asked to fill out a pretty detailed goal worksheet on her first day of her counselor in training camp this year. I should have reviewed that with her. It makes sense to help them think about what their focus is.
You can also share some of your goals and hopes for them. It doesn't have to be overly complicated. Keep it positive. I think meeting some new friends and learning a bit are wonderful summer goals. While you're at it, share any goals you have for yourself this summer.
* Send snacks.
Rarely is a hungry teen also a happy teen. I know your kids are eating you out of house and home, but it's easier to be well-adjusted to your environment when you're well-fed. Having a snack can be a big help. It's also something they can perhaps share or use as a conversation starter with a new acquaintance.
* Promote mindfulness.
Encourage teens to be mindful, meaning be in the moment, aware of their surrounding and sensory experiences (and there are so many great ones in the summer if they're going to be outside), aware and observant of their thoughts but letting them pass through without being overwhelmed by them.
If they're nervous or uncomfortable, it may help them to remember that it's a temporary feeling.
* Encourage them to be an includer.
Encourage your kids to look for ways to include others in their activities this summer. Whether that's inviting someone to sit with them at lunch during summer school or introducing themselves to someone who is standing off by themselves at camp, a small act of kindness can make a big difference. Help kids learn to be empathetic (find help on doing that here) and know that it benefits them as well as others.
Also, the world can always use more kindness.
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Filed under: Parenting