By Judith Zenna-Valgento

EngagedThe summer provides a wonderful opportunity for teenagers to pause, relax and renew their spirits. Throughout the school year, adolescents are often so busy that they don’t have the time to reflect on the many experiences that are intended to help them grow into adulthood. This article shares a few tried-and-true methods for encouraging teens and families to take advantage of the opportunities the summer months bring while also keeping them actively learning and engaged.

Reflect on past experiences and plan for the summer.

It is important to give teenagers permission and time for reflection. This is an excellent time of the year to check in with your teen; call it an annual report. Carve out an afternoon or evening at the end of the school year. Make it a celebration that includes an age and developmentally appropriate discussion about the recently completed school year, plans for the summer and planning for the next school year.

The conversation should include a discussion about plans and priorities for the summer.  For example, what will be different and special about the summer this year? What activities should be prioritized? What challenges might he or she face in accomplishing these priorities? How will the day-to-day responsibilities change, if at all?

Whatever your student decides, encourage them to put it writing and place it in a prominent location such as the kitchen cupboards or refrigerator door. Try and revisit the plan weekly to check in and ensure your teen is on track.

Prevent summer brain drain.

As part of discussion about priorities, be sure to include learning and keeping your student’s mind engaged.  According to emerging studies, all students experience a decline in literacy and math progress during the summer months. This is often referred to as summer brain drain, but the summer can also be a time to keep your students love of learning alive. One of the easiest ways to keep students busy and engaged is to encourage them to set aside 30 minutes a day (at least three times per week) to read, read, read. You might even consider creating a family book club. Discuss what is being read and engage each person to delve into the story.

It would also benefit students to pursue other interests and subjects such as math and science during the summer months. There are numerous ways to hook teenagers on real life learning, whether it is developing a grocery and household budget, designing and managing a garden, organizing a club, volunteering or planning a family outing.

As your student reflects on last year and plans for the coming school year, he or she may need to get ahead or enhance specific study or academic skills that will be important to stay on track for graduation. One idea to keep them building their skills could be to consider summer school. Summer school, which offers fewer subjects and partial days, could help many students make great strides to keep them on course or help them get ahead for the coming school year.

Savor the process and appreciate the moment.

Planning and preparing for the summer will pay off in dividends for you and your children. Make sure the framework of each plan is flexible because if there’s something that is consistent, it’s that everything changes. And don’t forget to laugh, laugh, and laugh. Delight in the humor that is so evident during those transitional times from childhood to adulthood. The moment won’t last forever. As parents of teens, are moving from ‘a sage on the stage, to a guide on the side,’ so soak up the summer sun and reflect on the experience because before you know it, the season will change, bringing with it new challenges and new opportunities.

About the Author: Judith Zenna-Valgento, Ph.D. , is the Campus Director at Brightmont Academy in Deer Valley, a private school that specializes in providing one-to-one instruction for each student that also has campuses in Scottsdale and Chandler. For more information about the Deer Valley Campus, please visit, call 623.738.0710 or email [email protected].