Summer with teens

It’s the beginning of the year — and can you believe it? — I have my sleeves rolled up, ready to weave together the doings that quickly fill the 2½-month window of sun (and no formal school) that we know as summer. 

It seems like just yesterday that my goal for summer planning was to fill their time with scheduled activities to combat boredom monsters, but not so many activities that they wouldn’t have time for unscheduled relaxation and creativity.

But with two kids at different ages and stages now on the teen spectrum, I have a few new things to consider.

Their sports and extracurricular activities now run year round. Admittedly, this sort of threw me the past couple years. I was left feeling like their activity calendars infringed on my right to really plan what I wanted for our family. 

This year, I’ve decided I’m not letting those desires of mine as their mom get squished out. I can count the number of summers I have left with them both at home on one hand.

I plan to consider all of the opportunities and schedules — and not feel guilty about making family time a priority. If it means they miss a game or a practice, so be it.

I encourage every parent to do what they feel in their gut is best for their families.

What are your family goals?

One of my to-do’s for summer is carving out a family vacation. Those times we’ve travelled together around the country or across the globe are among my most precious memories. I guess that’s partly because I feel free from day-to-day mothering and I get the opportunity to enjoy them, and experience and discover with them. 

But I know as they’re growing older they may have their own things they want to experience and discover. 

What is it that makes summer awesome for them? Is it days of sleeping in and meeting friends spontaneously? What is it they envision doing on our family trip?

And what about camp? Does your child look forward to going to a beloved camp every year? 

(I did a search on for my daughter and it came up with 487 options!) 

Expanding horizons, income

My kids have commitments they need to honor — and that I want them to! 

But summer also provides an opportunity for them to try out an extra sports camp or music lesson to hone their skills. 

Perhaps there’s something they’ve always wanted to try, but they don’t want to worry about being competitive or graded. 

Look through your local community education catalog. Every time I do, there always seems to be something there I didn’t notice the last time. 

For interests like cooking or art, there are cookware shops and museums that offer special programming. 

Making money may also be a short-term goal. My 17-year-old son worked bussing tables the past two summers. And although his dad and I said he didn’t have to work during the school year, he liked having his own money so much that he decided to keep his job with reduced hours during the school year. 

Resume boosters

With college planning around the corner, it may be a perfect time to seek out a volunteer opportunity or an internship. You can find a variety of things in the Twin Cities at

Local churches and hospitals are perfect if your teen is seeking a service-minded opportunity. Youth groups and nonprofit organizations tend to have special summer programs or trips planned with teens in mind. 

Leadership training can come with those opportunities. But programs like Outward Bound and National Outdoor Leadership School take it a step further to encourage personal growth with a leadership focus. Bonus: The latter structures its trips to be used later for college credit.

Summer programs with iD Tech include STEM camps (coding, game development, robotics or design) for ages 7 to 19 at 150 prestigious campuses — from Macalester in St. Paul to the University of Hong Kong. 

All of the above options are also ideal for college resumes. 


After talking it through, we’ve narrowed our family’s to-do list to include summer rugby, the tail end of the soccer season, teaching our daughter to drive, part-time jobs (maybe for both kids), a service trip, a trip to Wales/Scotland, high-school sports tryouts, family visiting for a week and jumping on the backyard trampoline.

It’s going to be one terrific summer.

Please note: This is my final Teens & Tweens column. It has been a privilege to share my parenting journey with you for the past 3½ years. Thank you, Minnesota Parent, for giving me this opportunity. But as my teens grow and move on, so must I.