Saturday, July 6, 2013

Don't Let Your Young People Get Bored This Summer!

Sun. Sand. Surf. These seem to be the images that pop into my mind when I think of summer. I know plenty of eager young people whose parents are able to snuggle them up in the family van with their pillows and individual DVD players to go back and forth to the beach or the lake throughout the summer.  The reality for lots of families, however, is that summers include a lot of sun but not so much sand and surf. Parents need to work to put food on the table and keep the air conditioning on so a beach trip or any other type of vacation just isn’t an option. But with school out, what is left for our young people to do?

Many cities have great parks and recreation departments that offer incredible programs for kids during the summer at low cost (I’m particularly fond of the City of Spartanburg Parks and Recreation Department since our Spartanburg office is located in one of their community centers, and we are witness to all the cool kids in summer programs every day (!). Most events and activities like these are for younger kids – up through middle school age if we’re lucky – but very few programs are available to teens. And, for the purposes of teen pregnancy prevention, teens lounging around with nothing to do all summer is NOT a good idea!

So what’s the solution? Obviously, a summer job for those who are old enough is a great way to learn responsibility, accountability, work ethic and to earn some money. If a job isn’t an option, consider an unpaid internship or job-shadowing opportunity.  There are lots of employers who would appreciate some extra help during the summer while having a chance to expose young people to a potential career field. Then look for volunteer opportunities. Soup kitchens, clothing pantries, park clean ups, church or community programs – there are all sorts of ways young people can give back and make a positive difference in their community. And last but not least, being a part of community organizations is a great way to give back, stay engaged in a positive and healthy way and learn valuable leadership skills. I work with a Youth Action Board all year, and we don’t slow down in the summer! In fact, we’re headed to a Youth Summer Forum in early August, and it won’t cost the young people anything.  There are all sorts of opportunities like these for young people if you look hard enough.

Whatever you do, make sure young people have safe activities to be involved with during the summer. A weeklong trip to the beach isn’t necessary, but putting some thought into how young people will spend the blazing sunny days during the summer is!

by Dana Becker, Spartanburg Community Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy  

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