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Guiding Your Middle Schooler Toward Independence This Summer

For children and parents alike, the summer can be a welcome break from the daily grind of schoolwork. But the learning doesn’t have to stop! Families can use summer vacation to teach big-picture skills that encourage healthy life-long habits and behaviors, while getting children to think about life as college students and beyond.

For example, it’s a great time to foster independence in your children — particularly 10- to 13-year-olds. At this age, they are going into the final year of elementary school or about to start middle school and typically seeking more choices and greater responsibilities.

Teaching independence during the summer can also help hyper-vigilant moms and dads avoid the “helicopter parent” trap. You’re giving them space and freedom but setting safe and reasonable limits, ultimately lessening your anxiety about letting go.

To save you time, we consulted the experts and brainstormed some creative ways to nurture confidence and self-reliance in your kids this summer:

Doing Laundry. Helping your child master this chore pays big dividends, especially when they head to college. Let them choose a hamper to keep in their bedroom, and walk them through the process of operating both the washer and dryer. Teach them how to measure detergent and separate clothes according to colors and fabrics. (And don’t forget the lint filter!)

Growing a Plant. Help your child select flowers or vegetables to grow in pots over the summer. Whether you start with seedlings or plants, make it clear that they are responsible for the watering, fertilizer and general upkeep. This is an early lesson in caring for things and beings outside of themselves. Provide potting soil, containers and water, and help them create a watering schedule.

Caring for a Pet. If you have a family pet, give your child primary responsibility of feeding, exercise and playtime for a certain amount of time during the summer. Keep a close eye and jump in when necessary, but give them space to experience the reward of nurturing a pet they love.

Prepare a Meal. Teach your child to put together a simple meal by the end of the summer. They’ll thank you down the road when they’re away at college and suddenly on their own for meals! Depending on their tastes and abilities, that might look like a ham and cheese sandwich with orange wedges, scrambled eggs and toast, or a homemade pepperoni pizza. Along the way, they learn basic kitchen skills like measuring, slicing and timekeeping.

Running an Errand. Give your child a short, walkable errand to complete. They could take something to a neighbor’s house or walk alone to another store while you’re at a shopping center. Set firm rules and require text check-ins at specific times.

It is not easy as a parent to think about a time when our children are no longer dependent on us, and having to let go of their daily care so they can do it on their own. But by giving them these early lessons, you can have peace in knowing you prepared them well.

Have more questions? We’ve got answers! Explore our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about our Prepaid Plans and Savings Plan. And click here to start your savings now!

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