In the next few weeks, teenagers will say goodbye to the classrooms that consumed the majority of their time for the last nine months and say hello to the seemingly endless free time that is the hallowed summer break.
Quick! Do you have a game plan to combat the approaching boredom?
A Whole Lot of Free Time
Summer gives us so many wonderful things. Where would we be as a civilization without lemonade? Ice cream? The old-fashioned, cross-country family vacation (where the bonds of love are tested)? All those nostalgic movies like The Great Outdoors, The Sandlot, or Ernest Goes to Camp? Or the beloved free time?
It’s easy to see why summer is so great.
But inevitably – somewhere around the second week in most cases – teenagers will crawl out of bed at 2pm, take stock of the fact that they haven’t showered in four days, and make the annual declaration, “I’m bored.” Let’s face it; they’ve killed every bad guy on Call of Duty, re-watched Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre nine times each, and sent 700 texts to their BFF who’s out of town visiting Aunt Matilda in Ft. Lauderdale. What else is there to do?
Now their “endless summer” has become your endless torture.
But just because every other summer has eroded into whining and complaining doesn’t mean this one has to, as well. With a little pro-active planning, you can echo the words of Phineas and Ferb (who’ve been on summer break since February of 2009!!!) and say, “I know what we’re gonna do today!” Here are a few, low-cost ways you can help your teenagers have fun, avoid boredom, help others, and grow relationally this summer.
Do an Internship. No, I’m not referring to the new Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson movie; I’m talking about an actual internship with a local business that’s in a prospective career field. If your teen wants to be a world-renowned heart surgeon, they might want to spend a few weeks volunteering at the local hospital or clinic to see if they can even stand the sight of blood. It’s always better to find out that you faint before you spend a million dollars on tuition at med school. But it doesn’t have to be a full-blown internship, either; your teen can simply shadow a family friend in his/her office setting for a few days, as well.
Let the Countdown Begin
See the Blockbusters as a Family. Every year, The Source for Youth Ministry produces a two-part article that highlights the summer’s biggest films that are sure to appeal to young moviegoers. (Check out PART ONE here.) Why not take in a few of them as a family? Let members of the family each choose a movie across the whole summer, and after you go see them, discuss them over ice cream or pizza. (By the way, we also have totally free resources on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page that will get your kids talking.)
Volunteer at Church. Chances are pretty good that your church will be hosting a Vacation Bible School for children and/or a short-term mission trip. This can be a low cost (or no cost) way of filling time AND serving others. Chances are also good that new relationships can be forged during this kind of service, as well.
Go Kayaking in a Two-Person Kayak. This idea doesn’t need much description. Since all of us live near a body of water of some kind (lake, river, ocean, or exceptionally large puddle), rent or borrow a two-person kayak and go for a float. Trust me. You’ll learn LOTS about communication and teamwork.
Learn a New Craft or Hobby. Instead of just pinning pics of food, clothes, or music on Pinterest, why not actually learn how to cook, sew, or play an instrument? Again, borrow what you might need from a friend or family member, and surf over to YouTube. You can learn how to do just about anything there. (And I do mean anything.) This way, come the end of the summer, your teens will actually have something tangible to show for it.
Raise Money for a Good Cause. Tired of hearing about drinking water shortages in Africa or girls abducted in the sex-trafficking trade? There are tons of ways to raise money…and tons of great causes to support. By the way, this kind of stuff looks great on a college application. Help your teens make their summer count for something bigger than themselves.
Write a Script for Star Wars Episode 7. Yeah, I know that J. J. Abrams was recently hired to continue to the saga of a galaxy far, far away, but maybe he could use an idea or two. Who knows? He might even be willing to pay a couple million bucks for the script!
These are just a few ideas to get you going. There are hundreds of cool projects you can do as a family to fill the free time, make a difference, learn something, or just have fun. Now, as your family crosses off days on the calendar, it won’t be to signify the end of school, but rather, the beginning summer. Have fun!
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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