Summer Options for Teens

Summer is fast approaching and many families are wondering the best use of the school break. Should teens have time to just relax and be free from responsibilities? Should they be working on academics that they found difficult during the school year? Should they be obtaining experiences to develop their resume? There are so many choices that it is hard to know the right balance between encouraging teens to enjoy the break and setting themselves up for a solid future.

One thing all parents should know about summer is that it can be a risky time. Teens who are bored, have a lot of downtime, or have less supervision run a higher risk of falling into the wrong pastimes. Incidences of first-time cigarette, marijuana or alcohol use for underage kids spike significantly during the summer months. Juvenile crime and automobile fatalities also increase for youth during the summer months. While it’s important that teens get some downtime, parents should also insist that they have some constructive activities to fill the long break.

Begin by sitting down with your teen to discuss their interests and talk through pros and cons of various options. Try to define a goal for the summer break on which you both can agree. Perhaps your teen would like to help others, meet a personal challenge, earn money, or improve a skill. Establishing a goal can create a bond between parent and teen, model responsible goal-setting, lead your teen to just the right activity, and, most importantly, increase your teen’s feeling of success when the summer comes to a close.

Once you have established a goal, research summer opportunities that match your teen’s interest. Here are some ideas:

Summer School

If your teen wants to boost their GPA, round out their college application, become more proficient in a weak academic area, lighten their course load during the next school year, or just loves to learn, summer school might be right up their alley. High schools and colleges usually offer a variety of academic enrichment programs. Programs might focus on opportunities to explore a certain area of interest, help for remedial students, development of leadership skills, or college/SAT prep. Local community colleges will often allow high school students to enroll in a summer class, which might be a good option for a strong student who wants to get ahead.

Part-time Job

Having part-time employment is a valuable life lesson. A job helps teens develop a good work ethic, learn how to work with others, take initiative, manage their time, and adapt to new processes. Summer employment will give your teen valuable experience to put on their resume or college application. In addition, the money your teen earns provides them the opportunity to practice managing their own finances before they move out on their own, another vital life skill they should work on.

College Summer Programs

Attending a college’s summer program can be a great way to do some career exploration if your teen is interested in a particular major or field of study. This is incredibly valuable, even if it only tells your teen what they do NOT want to pursue as a career. Narrowing down your teen’s interests is a great outcome to a summer. In addition to trying out a particular interest, a summer college program can show your teen what college life is like. Your teen will likely get to eat in the campus cafeteria, tour the facilities, and meet with faculty. These types of programs can be anywhere from a three-day to a month long stay, with some even designed for daily commuters. Check the websites of colleges and universities in your area.


Having a summer internship can help your teen get hands-on experience in the real world. Young people are often not aware of all of the different types of careers available to them or what types of skills each career requires. Summer internships for high school students are designed to help them figure out what direction they want to take in life. This can be very valuable feedback to a teen as they try to determine where they should apply for college and/or what career they would like to pursue. Additionally, they will develop new skills, learn proper employment etiquette, and develop a network of professionals to call on in the future.

Most teen internships require that students be at least 16 years old and have completed their sophomore year of high school. Some are paid, but most are not. You can visit to learn more or have your teen discuss this option with their school guidance counselor or reach out to local companies.

Study Abroad

For the adventurous, your teen could study abroad over the summer. One option is to take an immersion language program, where your teen would reside in another country to learn a foreign language. Some programs house teens in dorms at foreign universities, while others place teens in homes with host families. Just Google “teen language program” and you will find lots of options. Another option is a service trip. Your teen can get involved with a service program that takes a group of students to an impoverished area in a third world country to volunteer. The projects could include remodeling living quarters, teaching, constructing a school, working with underprivileged children, caring for animals, or pursuing environmental projects. Either way, studying abroad will expose your teen to different cultures and new things, all of which will enrich your student and is appreciated by colleges and employers.

Take a Class

Check out your local YMCA, park and rec department, and newspapers to see what sports programs or classes are being offered over the summer. Exercise is great for kids of all ages and you may find a sport in which your teen is interested. Your child may learn a new skill or hone in on a hobby. Consider drama, martial arts, art, cooking, sewing, music lessons, rock climbing, or other ventures. You might even find a leadership program, which would provide your teen some valuable skills for their future.

Community Service

Volunteering can be a great way to spend the summer. Serving the community provides youth with so many benefits, such as instilling a good work ethic, developing a sense of purpose and self-confidence, providing new perspective on life and gratitude for what you have, and offering hands-on experience in the real world. Both colleges and future employers love to see community service on a resume because it shows growth, skill development, responsibility, and a willingness to contribute to a better quality of life. Local options include animal shelters, halfway houses, nursing homes, hospitals, churches, homeless shelters, soup kitchens or doing yard work for an elderly neighbor.

Summer Camp

Summer camps aren’t just for little kids! There are fun or educational camps available for teens that will allow them to learn new skills, explore an unfamiliar place, or meet new people. Teen campers live in a structured, highly supervised environment, which helps them gain perspective on life at home and build self-confidence and hope for a brighter future. If a summer camp is too pricey, your teen might consider becoming a camp counselor for younger kids so that they can still get the camp experience, but also gain responsibility, leadership, and part-time employment.

Final Thoughts… Connecting your teen with the right summer activity can help him or her become more responsible and independent, develop problem-solving skills, improve social skills, become more open-minded, explore interests, and increase self-esteem.

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