Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Help Your Teen Make It a Successful Summer

The weather has been warming up here in Southern California, and spring break is upon us. Soon, the school year will be wrapping up. Now is the time for all good active parents to begin the discussion and joint planning with your teens and college students about what they will do over the coming summer. I am beginning these efforts with my own 17 year old, as well as with each of the teens and college students I counsel here in my office in Newport Beach.

I find teens are happier and feel better about themselves if they do something active or productive with their time over the summer months. By working a part-time job over the summer, your teen or young adult can learn valuable skills, get lessons on the importance of a good attitude and being of service to others while working with the public. One of our teens told me she REALLY understood the value of money after working a few months at a local sandwich shop. There are also lessons available from part-time jobs about taking initiative, teamwork, punctuality, and being pleasant to others despite your own moods.

The job market is competitive for part-time jobs, so now is the time to encourage your teen to get out there early and put their name in or apply. Sometimes, I have the parent assist by driving a younger teen to various job locations near your home, and have the parent wait in the car while they go in and ask about openings. Many teens are shy, or just have never done this before, so they may need you to teach them how to apply, practice interviewing, communicating an enthusiasm for the job, and learning to follow up and be positively persistent with job leads about going back and checking in a few days later, or when the hiring manager is expected in. Remember, they are new at this and may need some skills and encouragement.

When a teen or college student gets and keeps a job, it can boost their self-esteem and confidence. The world of work can be a whole different area of mastery in which they can be successful, develop people skills, and meet friends. Colleges love to see part-time jobs on students’ applications. It shows responsibility, maturity, and the ability to make and keep commitments to others (as opposed to mostly playing World of Warcraft or sleeping all summer). Many teens I see won't think of doing a job search at all, or early enough to really have a good chance of getting one, so parents need to usually be involved and teach these skills.

Internships and volunteer experiences over the summer would also be a valuable use of summer time for college students or teens. In most areas, there is a non-profit agency that coordinates volunteer positions throughout the area, including hospitals, animal shelters, and programs for disadvantaged youth like the Boys and Girls Club, etc. In Orange County, California, where I live and am in private practice, it is called One OC (714-953-5757). You can Google the one in your area. You can also brainstorm with your teen or college student over spring break about what kind of volunteering or internship might interest them, get started together identifying who could use their help this summer, and following up. Have the young person make the calls as well, maybe with you nearby if needed.

If volunteering, part-time work, or an internship won't work, then have your student consider registering for a summer college class at your local community college. Now is the time to scope out what is available, and find out about registration dates. If you wait until school is out, it may be too late to register. Many college students are so busy with their current course load that they really give no thought to summer until the day they drive home after finals. This is why they need you to help them think ahead. Maybe your student can knock out a particularly difficult math class over the summer, and make the next academic year lighter and less overwhelming. Maybe they can graduate a little sooner and take out one less student loan!

Good, involved parents unite! Consider this your friendly public service announcement to strike while the iron is hot. Now is the time to help your teen or college student make at a great summer, build their self-confidence, and take another big stride toward launching into adulthood.

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