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Summer Job? Put that Money Away Now

I’m all for kids getting summer jobs. Especially teens. Between learning to value a dollar, combat entitlement, and help with the incredible cost of college, it is needed. And turning a job into a year-round opportunity expands the value and learning, if schedules permit.

So when I read my colleague, Ron Lieber’s recent NY Times article on starting a Roth IRA, I was prompted to chime in with some of my own thoughts.

Sit down with your kids and tell them how much work it takes to earn money to pay for life’s essentials, then the ‘want’ items they request. To educate them; what parents forfeit to provide for their kids – but not with guilt.

Share financial 101 lessons and have them start investing. Now. It is never too early. Help them make their own decisions; the losses and gains will resonate more with them.

Have them set goals. Have them use part of their savings to pay for next summer’s adventure. Be it $50 or $100 towards camp canteen; spending money for their teen trip or experience. Have them set realistic benchmarks. Have them ask grandparents and relatives to support them with financial gifts to meet their goals. Nothing like having skin in the game.

Never looked for a job yet? Expose them to resources; let them get creative. Just letting others know they might be available to assist can open up numerous opportunities. And the first job leads to the next one, internships, career exploration and more.

Kids and teens today do understand that life is expensive. But many need to understand what that means to you and your family.

The Kids Are Played Out

Summer is coming to an end; and school sports and schedules loom. Far tougher play than summer sports.

Having lived through the sports challenges and commitments of a very athletic daughter, and a husband/father who graciously coached many of our children’s town sports, I know what lies ahead. So I was very taken by this recent NY Times op-ed piece by a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. His perspective is noble, in my opinion.

In guiding parents year-round on summer and enrichment experiences to help their kids and teens develop, I hear all too often of the school year sports issues. Parents wanting their kids to have a healthy, yet instructive, summer break from regular sports schedules their children experience. And then there are those who seek out the best and competitive sports experiences to give their kids an edge to hopefully earn a better team position or move up to a higher team level.

What parents don’t realize is that traditional camps have the balance correct. In most cases, effective instruction, healthy and optional team competitions, and the exposure to a cross-training across a spectrum of sports at the same time. Think tri-athlete, but across a child’s choice of sports. Compared to hyper-focus on one sport per season, leading to burn-out and potential long term injuries.

I wish this could always be for kids and teens. Balance. Let’s try to borrow from camp directors their knowledge and give kids a break to develop age appropriately – and still have time for their study and recreation activities.

I Had a Childhood, Once

Jennifer Finney Boylan’s NY Times article had quite an impact on jogging adults’ memories of bygone simple outdoors play. For her it was boyhood; for us, it’s childhood.

I have the similar memories. Playing with my street neighbors, regardless of their gender, age, religion, culture. My parents said, see you for dinner. We had no cell phones or computers. Life was simple, even grand one might say.

Raising my own children, the times I have savored most in terms of their development is when they have free play and time to explore and imagine. And those times were when they were in camp. Regular school year activities, responsibilities, and academic pressures robbed them of this vital developmental time, I believe.

They are positive, independent young adults now. And I am quite proud of who they are and have become. I do wish their childhood could have included much of the free time magic I was able to experience. But thankfully they had camp – many years of incredible nurturing, experiences, exploration, passion discoveries, lifelong friendships and more. I do believe their camp experiences have absolutely shaped who they are today.

First Sleepaway Camp Calls

It’s that time.

Second full week of summer camp, parent/child calls home.

You can’t wait, but how will it go?

Here’s some 20 year veteran tips:

  • organize your thoughts ahead
  • have a few questions planned to ask (key word, few). Most calls are quite short (5-10 minutes); don’t want to waste time
  • plan ahead who will talk vs. listen – time flies; younger siblings may want to talk, so help them contribute
  • sense trigger points – what might upset your child
  • focus on the positive; don’t dwell on things you are concerned about. Bringing things up from a child’s letter home could generate anxiety on the call
  • safer topics include camp-wide events, e.g. Olympics events, first trips out of camp, special entertainment and traditions, big sisters/brothers, favorite activities so far
  • let your child lead; follow his/her thoughts
  • do ask if they need anything, or want to share something in particular they want you to know (a good lead-in to see what is on their mind)
  • if he/she seems sad, bring up one of your safe discussion points and change the tone
  • if you are sad, contain it; do not share that you miss them, this can cause/stir up homesick feelings

Best thing is for your child to say, gotta go to my activity or the camp event. This means they are happy.

Should you have any post call concerns, email or call the camp. The director and senior staff will look into your concerns.

After the call? Plan an activity for yourself. But you will likely check in online with your friends to see how their calls went too!

Summer Camp First Letters Home

It’s that time of year. We get calls from anxious parents whose children (or teens) are sharing some homesickness or separation challenges. We console and normalize. The same holds true for campers’ first letters.

We love when parents share their first camper letters. I still cherish mine. Happiness, some sadness, new friends, counselor stories, the food is great, the food ‘stinks’, I ‘need this’, I ‘want this’, please send me…..

Please do NOT read into these (i.e. do not over analyze). Letters are written in moments of intense feelings. And those feelings go away typically as soon as the next activity occurs. Call the camp IF a pattern develops; not at the first letter. Senior staff will look into this; they want campers to succeed and be happy.

Save these letters! Create a special folder/container that withstands time. You will want to read these again and again. And your kids will get a kick out of them even when they return at the end of this summer. Don’t be surprised it they say something like, ‘oh yeah, I remember it was raining that day, and I was bored.’ Or, ‘I don’t remember writing that.’ You think, if only I knew then!

Share your stories with others; you will see you and your thoughts are not alone.

Now put the letters away, enough with the social media. Go connect with others and enjoy this long holiday weekend – in person.

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