By Matthew McDonnell for GalTime.com
Summer activities for kids! Summer is right around the corner! It's time to start planning.
You don't have to make a final decision yet, but this is the time of year that summer programs get serious about planning and you should too.
I used to work in the field of experiential education, primarily with adolescents on sailing expeditions. I have worked in the admissions office and in the field. During that time, I spoke to hundreds of parents and taught at least as many students, and you wouldn't believe how easy it is to tell who did their homework.
Here are some of the things you should start thinking about now to make sure that this summer is a success.
Talk to your child often about his/her interests.
This is by far the most important thing you can do. Nearly 100% of all students that I have seen leave a program early have left because they didn't want to be there in the first place.
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I've heard many times in tear-soaked conversations prior to sending a student home early that "my parents made me come", or "I told them I wanted to go to X instead but they never listened to me." If a child really doesn't want to participate in a certain activity, they won't get much out of it, and their bad attitude will make sure that other students get less out of an experience they really care about.
Guide your child's decisions, don't make them.
Now, if your child wants to spend the summer eating only candy, staying up as late as she wants, and playing unlimited hours of video games, some guidance is certainly in order.
This is why it's so important that you've had an ongoing dialogue. Knowing her interests can allow you to make helpful suggestions. But remember, it's of paramount importance that your child thinks she made the decision on her own.
Involve your child in every step of the process.
Once you have opened a dialogue with your kids, you want to make sure that you keep them involved. Anecdotally, I've also found huge differences between students who fill out their own paperwork and students who clearly had their parents do it for them. An admissions officer doesn't care if the handwriting is childish, in fact, we'd prefer it was.
The same goes for paying for the experience. If it's something your child wants to do, think of ways you can foster her emotional investment. Whether it's a $3,000 bike trek through Europe or a $25 pottery class, if your child earns it she'll be more invested and therefore have a more meaningful experience.
And get creative. She can earn an experience by something as simple as making her bed everyday, or even getting a part time job. Just determine what works best for your family and stick to it. My dad and I once sold over $1200 worth of candy bars so I could go on a Boy Scout trip. I remember going door-to-door with him much better than I remember the trip itself.
Once you and your child decide what to do this summer, make sure you are ready. Read about what you'll be doing, gather whatever supplies or equipment you'll need, and think about borrowing as opposed to buying.
This will build excitement which means your child is much more likely to take full advantage of the opportunity.
It will also ease any anxieties he may be having. Mental and emotional preparation is every bit as important as having the right stuff and will ensure a meaningful, memorable and fun experience.
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