May is a crazy month in the life of any school. At a dynamic institution like Colorado Academy, May is super-charged. We have all kinds of end-of-year activities and celebrations, culminating in the Commencement of the Class of 2024. 

But summer will be here before we know it. I want to encourage students and parents to think about how they might spend their summer in ways that promote growth. To be sure, there will be opportunities to sleep in and lounge by the pool. But there can be real value in setting some goals to provide some structure.

For those who are old enough, I encourage them to get a job. I worked as a paperboy throughout high school and as a lifeguard in the summer. The daily grind of getting up at 5:30 every morning to deliver papers instilled some discipline. I learned about how to work with adults as I collected the bill every month going door to door. I learned about saving money and some sense of self-restraint in not spending on impulsive purchases. Lifeguarding in the summer was a complete blast. I had a whole crew of friends who were on the local swim team and were lifeguards together. I know it can sometimes be difficult for teenagers to find jobs, but I look back with fondness about those experiences and know that they provided something meaningful on my journey to adulthood.

Even if you have a younger child, I would encourage parents to think about having some chores that your kids do to help maintain your household. It’s actually amazing what little kids can do and how they will benefit from having responsibilities. On the recent Fifth Grade away trip, Principal Angie Crabtree overheard two hilarious quotes. One student said, “I hope I have a good wife because I have no idea how to make a bed.” (I am sure that if this young man ever gets married, his spouse will disabuse him of the idea that a wife is there to serve him!) Another said, “When do they pick up my laundry and bring it back?” Although one might think the latter could be typical for a private school student to say, there is actually a huge parenting trend in abandoning household chores. A 2015 survey published in the Wall Street Journal demonstrated that, even though 82% of parents did chores as a kid, only 28% actually had their own children contribute to the household.

There are also a number of developmental benefits. A 2018 New York Times essay by KJ Dell’Antonia notes, “Being a part of the routine work of running a household helps children develop an awareness of the needs of others, while at the same time contributing to their emotional well-being.” The act of doing chores promotes empathy, confidence, and resilience. To be sure, they might complain at first, but if you as a parent hold firm, it will become routine and normalized. And you will be amazed at what your children can do. With our kids, they did their own laundry at an early age, they learned to run the dishwasher, they learned to sweep and to clean up their rooms. It is really not hard and can help instill in them a sense of competence and responsibility.

Finally, my last piece of advice for the summer: Read. Screen time is the default for kids, and we know that there are so many benefits from breaking away from screens. Set a goal to go to your local public library once or twice a month and have your kids spend time finding books. Encourage them to read for fun. This will pay all kinds of dividends in the future as it promotes imagination and creativity.