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Great Summer Projects For Your Teen

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Money, Jobs, & College

Maybe your teen has already lined up a summer job and can’t wait for school to end so he can get busy. But maybe your teen hasn’t lined anything up yet and doesn’t have many prospects. Maybe your teen can’t wait for school to end so he can goof off.

Now is the time to help your teen make the summer count.

Invite your kid to see the summer as time to devote to a major project of her own choosing. What would she like to learn, what would she like to create, who would she like to meet? What would make the summer not just a break from school but an opportunity to express who she really is?

Any project will do. Don’t think that your teen’s project has to be something that looks good on a college resume because anything your child does on his own over the summer will look good on a college resume. It doesn’t have to be volunteer work. It doesn’t have to be an unpaid internship. Your teen’s summer project could be any in-depth effort. Your teen’s ability to dive into a subject, organize himself, and accomplish goals independently are exactly the sorts of things colleges and future employers look for.

So sit down with your kid and make a list. Encourage her to think big. Remember the woman who set herself the task of cooking every one of the recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year? She not only did the cooking but she blogged about it. The blog became the basis for a book. The book became the basis for a movie. Now no one is saying your child’s summer project needs to end in a movie starring Meryl Streep but a summer project can be multi-faceted. The project and a journal or blog or photo series. The project and interviews of key stakeholders and a white paper sent to the city council. The project and a demo tape or YouTube video.

Now that the tools of production and distribution are attainable via the computer in your home’s den and through free software for blogging, audio editing, websites and teleconferencing, there is no reason for teens to wait for some company to hire them. Every teen can experiment with her dreams right now. Ten weeks of focused effort can lead to wonderful things.

The classic back-to-school essay assignment “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” could describe a watershed moment for your child. Your child, who might be feeling discouraged right now about his job prospects for summer, can be excited to have time free for his own work.  Even your child who’s landed a job might want to consider a small project for her free time.

The sky’s the limit this summer. Help your teen see the possibilities.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson.  All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.