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In Be"TWEEN" Time

When kids hit the tween years, summer break becomes something all together different. Don't expect to fill your summer the way you did just last year. So what can you do once family vacation is over and the kids have already spent a week or two at their grandparent's house?

It's time to get creative and be patient. You have officially entered into no-man's- land where your child is too old for all day at the children's museum and the summer camps of yesteryear, and too young for a traditional job. Just when you think you have figured out how to navigate the rest of your summer, you can expect to focus on helping your tween have a smooth transition from elementary to middle school.

It never ends! It's called parenting.

Here are five tips to help you have an enjoyable and productive summer. Yes, you can have both! Just remember that tweens are at that age where they don't like being told what to do and when to do it, so make it a collaborative effort and let them help plan out the rest of their summer.

TIP: Put a calender on the wall and make a loose daily schedule for the weeks ahead, that way you can avoid “nagging” about staying up playing video games and sleeping in too late.

1. Is your child a budding entrepreneur? Since most paying jobs that youngsters can have are reserved for older teens, help your tween come up with some creative ways to make some money and gain a bigger sense of responsibility in the process. Your kiddo can be a dog walker, mow lawns, or wash cars. The possibilities are endless. Just find out what they are interested in and help them come up with a plan. Nothing builds confidence like a summer job.

2. Volunteering and service to others is another option. Research shows that civic engagement promotes higher academic achievement and develops many skills, including critical thinking, organizing, and planning. It also helps young people to begin forming an identity, an essential role of the tween years. Sit down with your child and find out what their interests are and then let them choose an activity based on that. Together, you can research some volunteer opportunities in your area and eventually make a commitment as you would with a paying job.

3. Give your child the opportunity to help you at home. Now that they are less busy with school work and school activities, they can take on bigger jobs in the home. Kids at this age get a sense of pride from sharing in adult tasks. You can use this time as an opportunity to teach them life skills such as doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and fixing small things around the house. This helps them know that you value their role in the family and that you trust them to figure out new skills.

4. Nurture your kiddo's hobbies and interests. There are plenty of programs out there for kids who are into everything from sports, to photography, cooking, dancing, and art. The list goes on. Many colleges now offer summer programs geared toward tweens. Museums also offer all kinds of free summer activities for this age group. Ask your child what subjects they have an interest in learning more about and get them enrolled in a class.

5. Help your child make a smooth transition into middle school. When summer is almost over, you can bet that most tweens have some worries about starting a new phase in their school life. Developmentally, they are in the age of egocentrism which means they think that every person is watching their every move. Don't expect them to ask for help or automatically share their concerns with you. Tweens often have an “I can do it on my own” attitude.

Trust your parental intuition that they have some worries and ask them how you can help. Most kids would say that they are anxious about figuring out their lockers, getting to class, organization of their school work, and cliques. You can help them by going on a run through before school starts. Let them practice working their lock and walking from one class to another. Stay organized by getting a planner and helping them arrange their binders and notebooks.

Lastly, talk to them about cliques and let them know that they can always come talk to you about their friends and peers.

You have enough ideas here to fill multiple summers so talk to your kiddo and find out what works best for them and your family. With a good balance of support, guidance, encouragement, and listening, you and your child can form a partnership that can last a lifetime.

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