Now that summer is here, you face the challenge of finding constructive activities to keep your tween occupied, but not overscheduled. Often tweens don’t want to attend camp and find themselves too young for a job or internship. Here’s a solution.
To give your tween a sense of responsibility while learning valuable life skills, try setting up a “Summer Exploration” contract. Begin by discussing what your tween wants to do this summer beyond hanging out at the mall or playing non-stop video games. Here’s where it gets interesting. Ask how much money they need for back-to-school clothes in the fall. Next, make a list of “jobs” that your child completes in order to earn her clothing allowance.
For simple math, let’s say you decide $400 is an appropriate amount. Set a deadline for a two-week time period where they complete 12 out of 20 distinct tasks. It helps to have a very specific end date, such as July 15, 3 p.m. If the 12 tasks are completed, your tween gets handed $200 for school clothes. Take a few days break and start another two-week program to earn the rest of the money.
The goal of this mock job experience is to increase your child’s awareness of community and family while gaining work skills. College counselors bemoan the fact that freshmen come to college without knowing how to budget, do laundry, or even complete a term paper on time. Your tween may complain, but he’ll gain “adulting” skills by completing the tasks. (Actual Adulting Camps exist so teenagers can learn these basic skills!) Simply explain to your tween that certain responsibilities and privileges come as they get older. “Earning” school clothes money is just such a responsibility.
So what will be on your child’s job list? Brainstorm together. Being able to choose 12 items out of 20 give tweens a sense of control. Here are 12 we had our daughter complete:
1 | Read a book on a new topic or genre and tell the family about it.
2 | Plan a family activity such as a picnic or game night.
3 | Take a class or workshop to learn a new skill such as bowling, painting, or drama.
4 | Find a free event in the community and organize the family to attend.
5 | Write an actual letter to a relative.
6 | Do at least three hours of volunteer work. This can be helping a neighbor with young children, walking the dog of an elderly person, or finding a community group looking for volunteers.
7 | Find a unique recipe and cook for the family. How about making homemade fortune cookies or barbecue hamburgers with ice cubes in the middle? (Look it up!)
8 | Write down your goals and plans for the future and seal them in an envelope. Give the envelope to an adult and open it in five years.
9 | Vacuum and “detail” the family car.
10 | Do a secret good deed for a family member.
11 | Invite a friend over and plan something unique to do.
12 | Watch a YouTube video and learn a new skill such as flower arranging, climbing a tree, or fixing a flat bike tire.
We used this program for three summers with our daughter. The first year, she completed only 11 items out of her required 12. According to our contract, that meant she didn’t receive the first designated portion of money. Yes, that may seem harsh, but it taught her to meet deadlines and complete tasks. She took a week break before completing her second half assignments. You can bet she completed those in record time! The following two summers she quickly finished her assignments on time. Today, she is an executive headhunter who tells me she always meets deadlines.
A Summer Exploration contract provides worthwhile activities for young teens to help them gain pride in their accomplishments as they earn money. After this program, hopefully they won’t have to go to “adulting” camp!