How to Keep Teens Busy and Safe in Summer

Posted by: Erin Reuland and Je’Nai Talley Jackson

As school-year programming winds down, many Ys experience a drop off in teen participation. As youth experts and families know, idle time can result in unhealthy choices for youth who are particularly vulnerable in their teen years. Y staff and families with teens can support teens’ healthy development by keeping them active, engaged and safe on long summer days.

Teen girl with boy around her shoulders in front of a jungle gym full of kids.

1. Encourage teens to work or volunteer as Leaders/Counselors-in-Training (LIT/CIT) at a summer camp.

Several YMCA overnight and day camps offer opportunities for teens to practice their leadership skills as Leaders- or Counselors-in-Training.  These are great opportunities for teens to build their resume, learn new skills and make new friends. Forming healthy relationships with young campers and serving as a role model can be mutually beneficial to the youth in your community.

2. Combat summer learning loss by collaborating with your library.

In low-income communities, there are fewer books to go around in summertime (one book for every 300 children), which places some kids behind their peers academically when it’s time to return to school. Almost all local libraries have a summer reading program that includes access to reading lists, traveling book mobiles, prizes and other activities to encourage summer reading for children and teens. Connect with your Y or local library to learn more.

3. Host a summer service day project.

Young people are more interested than ever in giving back through volunteering. Consider organizing a service day event with your Y that would allow teens to give back to their community, make new friends and experience the outdoors. Community gardening, park beatification, neighborhood clean-ups and other outdoor projects are great service opportunities during warmer summer months.

4. Connect teens to local employment opportunities.

Reach out to your local government to see if they have a summer youth employment program to connect teens to jobs and internships in your area. One Summer Chicago is an example of a seasonal job site for teens.

5. Utilize alumni as near peer mentors.

Recruit alumni from Y programs who are currently in college and home for the summer to have a college student panel or mixer with teens to discuss campus life and the transition to college. Near peer mentors can be a great influence for helping teens choose a college-bound track.

6. Connect students to nearby university admissions offices.

Plan a campus visit to a local college or university to expose youth to the college experience. Admissions staff are often willing to come to youth programs to meet with students and their families.

7. Pre-college summer camps.

Connect teens to universities that have residential summer camps. Students will have a chance to feel what it’s like to live in residence halls and explore topics they might be interested in, with campuses focusing on topics ranging from STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) to sports.

Looking for more tips and support?

How do you keep the teens in your life engaged during the summer months? Tweet your ideas using #BestSummerEver @ymca!

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.