I know, you probably read that title and thought, “Is she crazy?!”
After all, in the last 3 months we have experienced a viral pandemic, job losses, schools closing, distance learning, and shortages of everything from toilet paper to cleaning products.
Taking it a step further, our kids have had to live in a way they’ve never experienced before. Teens lost out on typical high school experiences like spring sports, time with friends, prom, and graduation. Some lost their part-time jobs, while others started one during the pandemic, which meant less than perfect working conditions.
Adding to their stress, typical summer activities such as going to the pool or hanging out at the state fair or concerts have all been put on hold for the time being.
There is an increasingly loud outcry from parents, “What will our kids do all summer?!”
Well, as a parenting and stepfamily coach I always approach such a question as more of a problem to be solved. That is the approach we all need to take because this summer will look nothing like any previous summer we have had.
So, my original premise that this could be a teen’s best summer ever despite the cancellations and pandemic may sound crazy, but it could happen!
How could there be any positive in this mess?
We get creative in helping our kids change their perspective. First, parents, we need to change ours.
My dad, who is 90 and seen so much in his lifetime, uses the phrase, “It is what it is. We need to make the best each day we’ve got.” He should know, he’s been through many health struggles and yet he still sets a goal and gets it done each day. If he can do this at 90, then why can’t our kids and teens?!
The first step is to acknowledge the fact that it is going to be different. We can sit around and complain about it, or decide to find opportunities for growth.
Secondly, think about the Mr. Rogers quote. When he was little his mom told him, “When you’re scared, look for the helpers.” I’m going to play on that a bit and say, become a helper.
Nothing battles boredom like getting busy!
Ask your kids/teens: 1. What is one problem in the world, or in our community, you’d like to solve? What are the first steps you can take to be a problem-solver for that issue? When we empower our kids to be problem-solvers at an early age, they become creative, independent thinkers for a lifetime. Kids think "out of the box" and why not let them? If we encourage them to first identify a problem and then research ideas/thoughts/solutions, we are building a skill which will serve them well later in life as an entrepreneur or team member for a company.
2. What skills do you have that you could teach others? There are so many elderly seniors who are feeling isolated and could use some company.
I saw a story about a teen who sat on one side of the glass front door while his grandpa sat just inside the house on the other side of the door. This young man taught his grandpa how to find podcasts on his Ipad to help him pass the time. This led to Grandpa telling his grandson all about his experiences in the war. These stories might have never been shared without this moment of teaching. Our kids have been raised with technology, why not use their summer to reach out and serve others. Teaching a skill also challenges kids to improve their communication and patience! They might also learn a few other things along the way.
3. What is one thing you’ve always wanted to learn? Now, more than ever, kids have time on their hands. Some will discover a love of cooking, gardening or car repairs. YouTube offers how-to videos of everything you could ever want to learn! Set a goal of learning a new skill every week or two.
4. What is something you can do now to prepare yourself for the coming year? Some teens will be heading into AP high school classes or starting college in the fall. What work can they accomplish ahead of time? Younger students may be facing their first school year of learning a foreign language in the fall. There are so many places online that will give them the basics and let them work through the initial struggles without all the other homework that they'll have during school.
5. What creative ways can they still interact with their friends in a socially distant way? Have your kids help on the problem-solving side of this! Some neighbors are using their backyard fences for beach ball volleyball tournaments. The kids are socially distancing, yet having a chance to interact. We live on a cul-de-sac which would allow for kids to toss a lacrosse ball from one driveway to another, kick soccer balls back and forth or Other parents have decided to purchase fire pits and have outdoor movies in their yard (projecting movies on a white sheet or screen), allowing the friends over and putting blankets out 6 ft apart. (We have to get creative!)
6. How can you spend your time helping others? Leadership skills are developed through experience. Teens can help at a food pantry and learn more about their community organization while also offering resources for others. This will also be great for building a referral base and getting recommendations for future opportunities.
Our kids are so full of ideas and they are creative thinkers. They don’t think through the same critical lens adults do. In fact, thinking “outside the box” is their best skill!
While we are all disappointed about what won’t be happening this summer, imagine the skills, contacts, and leadership qualities your child can emerge with by the end of summer! Those skills will lead to possible jobs in the future!
So, parents, now is an opportunity we may not have had otherwise. Let’s lead the way to creative thoughts and opportunities and see where the journey takes our kids!