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It’s that time of year again … School’s out! Are you looking for fun ways of celebrating this milestone with your child? Read on for ideas that will help launch your child into a great summer no matter their age.


Part of the joy of summer for young children is simply being outside. Celebrate the end of a school year by enjoying time outside, either in your own backyard or at a local park. Setting up a kid-friendly sprinkler, building a fort or fun obstacle course together, or providing a set of water squirters will launch her into outdoor fun that can last all summer long.

Early Elementary

Celebrate how far your child has come by showing her pictures of herself at the start of the school year and now. Work together to make a list of things that she couldn’t do at the start of the year that she can do now. By celebrating your child’s achievements, both large and small, you are showing her that you value the person that she is becoming.

Later Elementary

Help your child think of a few accomplishments in the last school year that make him feel proud. Did he learn to play the recorder, make a new best friend, or participate in a new after-school event? Provide your youngster with crafting supplies and help him create an award for this accomplishment. Encourage children to think outside of themselves and create awards for other members in your family (Best Lunch Packer, Queen of Morning Drop Off, Homework Helper, etc.). Celebrating these accomplishments shows your child that growth is measured by more than just the grades on his report card.


Middle School

Create summer t-shirts with your middle schooler. You might choose tie dye, iron-on graphics, fabric markers, or simple paint to help your tween express themselves. This is a great project for just you and your child, or you could add a friend or two. Not only does this project offer an afternoon of DIY fun, your child will have a celebration shirt to wear all summer.



High School

Give your high schooler a box of summer fun! Consider including a new swimsuit, flip flops, sunglasses, a gift certificate for a favorite summer place they enjoy (movie theatres, restaurants, and coffee shops are all great ideas), and a few favorite snacks are sure to make your high schooler even more excited for the end of the school year. Don’t forget to include a note to your teen recognizing their hard work and letting them know how proud you are of them.


Perfect for All Ages (Even Grown-Ups)

Remind your child that learning is fun and doesn’t stop when the school year ends by choosing a book, or several, to read over the summer. Check out your public library (many of which have summer reading programs) or a local bookstore to make your selections. Don’t forget to pick up a book or two for yourself. When children see you value reading, they are more likely to read themselves.




Engaging in summer kickoff activities is the perfect way to show your child how proud you are of all that they have accomplished this school year. It also provides a great start to your summer together!


In America’s big cities, the high school dropout rate is as high as 50% and it’s not much better in rural areas either. Even though education is important as the first step towards getting a job that pays a decent wage, half of the kids who start high school as ninth graders don’t finish all the way to the end of their senior year. Why not?

Here are the main reasons why kids drop out:

They are older than other kids in their grade, either because they started late, were held back a year or two, or failed courses they had to repeat.

Some of these problems are within your control. You can help your kid figure out the credits he needs to graduate and make sure he gets those. You can help your child have high aspirations and realize that she can do great things if she just persists. You can make certain your teen feels welcome at home and do what you can to help him feel welcome at school.

Teens are short-sighted. They sometimes don’t see the value of high school and don’t realize how important a high school diploma might be in opening doors in the future. So you have to help your teen hang in there. But notice this: kids who drop out of school are not stupid. Instead, most dropouts are capable – even exceptional – kids, who needed more support than they got.

Kids who don’t complete high school aren’t necessarily doomed to the School of Hard Knocks. Hard work, pursuit of a passion, good social skills and a few lucky breaks can take a kid a long way.  Here are some famously successful people who dropped out of school:

But for every millionaire dropout there are a hundred who look back with regret. Deciding to stay in high school long enough to graduate is the first big decision most teenagers make, and they sometimes make the decision to drop out without really thinking. Do what you can to support and guide your teen.

Help your kid be a high school grad.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson.  All rights reserved.

Fast-forward a few years. Will your middle-school child graduate from high school or will he drop out? How can you tell and what can you do to help your kid stay in school?

The time to think about this is now, not when your child turns 16. Although most states have compulsory attendance laws into the high school years, the dropout rate is virtually the same in states that say they keep kids in school to age 18 compared to states where kids can leave at age 16. Since earning a high school diploma is your child’s basic ticket to a promising future, helpful in going to college, joining the military, renting an apartment, and getting any job with the hope of advancement, doing what you can to get your kid through is important.

The fact is, though, that high school doesn’t suit every child. The child who marches to a different drummer – who is creatively or socially or intellectually distinctive from the mass of kids her age – may find high school too restrictive, too unpleasant, or too irrelevant to be a good use of her time. Take a good hard look at your middle school kid and at the high school she is destined to attend. If you sense there won’t be a good fit, there are things you can do, starting now.

  1. Treat high school as a job, not a social experience. Instead of imagining that high school should be a golden time of fun and learning, realize that your kid is just putting in his time as if he were stuck in a dead-end job for a few years. With that in mind, help your kid make his after school hours his real education. For many teens who will be successful in computer science, skilled trades, entertainment, sports and the arts, their real education happens outside of school. Get your kid involved in high-powered afterschool experiences that will feed his interests.
  2. Shorten the time. One of my sons left high school early, not because he dropped out, but because he finished all his necessary credits a semester ahead. Take a look at your district’s graduation requirements and get those accomplished as efficiently as possible. Don’t waste school time with , like driver’s ed, you can enroll him in during the summer. Instead of balancing the semester with “fun” courses along with core courses, help your child plan to get the core courses accomplished early.
  3. Look into high school-community college partnerships. See if in your area a student can earn college credit before finishing high school or take community college courses in place of high school classes. The more mature, targeted atmosphere of a community college may be the motivator your teen needs.
  4. Consider online high school. Doing high school online isn’t for everyone but for the student who is consumed by an interest not served in the high school curriculum, earning a diploma online can accomplish this key milestone while letting her do in her free time what she really is interested in.

The usual reasons why a student drops out of high school often are just indicators of a disconnect between the teen and the school. Reasons like frequent absences and tardiness, acting out to the point of suspension or expulsion, and failing so many courses that graduation is impossible can all be caused by larger societal issues, of course. But at the student level these common reasons for school dropout are indicators that high school is just not a good fit. Instead of nagging a child about his attendance, his homework, and his lack of interest in school, consider that your child might need something different.

Certainly, you want to do all the good parenting things, like providing your teen with a study space and becoming involved in school affairs. But remember that, to get your child through high school and off to a successful future, you may need to help her find alternatives ways to do exactly that.


© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to suggest you start nasty rumors about your kid so his friends won’t like him so much. Being popular and having a lot of friends is a good thing.

But if your child isn’t one of the in crowd you might just thank your lucky stars. Being popular comes with risks.

In a recent study, researchers found that teens who were the most popular at age 13 were mired in problems 10 years later. The scientists followed 180 children from public schools in the Southeastern United States for a decade until age 22 or 23, along the way interviewing them, their parents, and their friends.  After 10 years, kids who were part of the popular gang in early adolescence had a 45 percent higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse than less-popular teens, leading to missed work and DUI arrests among the popular kids. They were also more likely to have been arrested for a crime.

Lead researcher Joseph Allen reports that although in middle school and high school the most popular kids seemed to be on a social fast-track, doing more dating, going more places, and having more fun than other teens, at age 22 these same people’s friends described them as less mature than other 20-year-olds.

What does this mean for your child?

If she’s not part of the most popular group, don’t make it your mission to put her there. Popularity is a two-edged sword and doesn’t necessarily lead to a life of social success. Make raising your child to be an interesting, friendly, engaged person the goal and downplay popularity and status.

If your child is one of the popular ones, keep an eye on things. Remember that research studies necessarily deal in generalities and it’s doubtful that all the popular kids in this study became social outcasts after high school. Your popular child’s path may be different from the general findings of research. But certainly kids who maintain their popularity into their 20s have more going for them than just being cool. They are interesting, friendly, and engaged people.

People like them, not because they’re popular, but because they’re nice.


© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.