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Teaching My Teen How to Take Charge of Her Summer Changed Our Lives

One night, my eldest child, who was a high school sophomore at the time, told me she had a change of plans: she no longer wanted to be pre-med in college. Instead, she wanted to attend film school. She followed her announcement with a request. “Can you please see if there are any film camps I can go to over the summer?”

Requests like this from my kids, and even from their schools, used to pile up and consume chunks of my day, sapping my energy and breaking my concentration. Like any other guilt-ridden parent who thinks they should, I pressed on anyway.

But it bothered me. My kids seemed to have plenty of time to stare at their phones and play video games while I couldn’t find enough time for the tasks I needed to accomplish day to day.

My daughter assumed my answer to her request would be yes. This time, she was wrong. I looked at her, then at the pile of work on my desk, and calmly told her film camp sounded like a great idea, but no, I wouldn’t look for one.

Instead, I coached her through the process —  and a new, better way of life for both of us was born.

Step 1: Research

I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has gone on a wild goose chase for a teen who expressed an interest in playing a sport or an instrument, only to later shun it because they no longer liked it. Been there, done that.

I didn’t know much about the film industry and I was too busy to research it. I told my daughter if she wanted to pursue her interest, she would have to do the leg work herself.

Time is valuable, my daughter’s included. By urging her to do the research on her own, I ensured she had skin in the game. In the meantime, I was able to focus on my own work. Based on the time and effort my daughter put in, which was significant, I gauged her level of interest to be high and agreed to pay for the summer program.

Step 2: Scheduling

“Great,” my daughter said. “Sign me up!”

My daughter directed me to a website and a registration link, complete with a long list of possible sessions and locations for the class she wanted to take. Instead of spending a couple of hours trying to figure out which session would work, I gave my daughter a window of time that worked for our entire family and asked her to find a session and register for it herself.

“When it’s time to pay,” I said, “let me know, and I’ll fill in the credit card information.”

Determining a schedule that worked took some time, but my daughter eventually figured it out. She proved to me that she was excited to go and determined to make it happen.

Step 3: Filling out forms

Once the schedule was decided and tuition paid, there was still more paperwork to fill out. The questions were nothing out of the ordinary, asking for parental information, her medical history, education, and extracurriculars.

My response was simply, “You fill them out.”

My daughter did exactly that, and when she finished, I checked over her answers and filled in those she was unable to complete. A few months later, my daughter went off to have what she described as two of the best weeks of her life.

Today, my daughter is 18 and in college, studying film and pursuing her dream: a dream she is, excuse the pun, directing herself.

As for me, I have more time to do the things I need (and want) to do. I implemented my new division of labor system to my other two children, now 17 and 14. They are becoming more self-sufficient by the day, learning how to pursue their goals and take care of their own needs at the same time. Not to mention, I’m a lot more pleasant to be around, which is a parenting win for all of us.

Stacey Freeman is a writer, lifestyle editor at, and the founder of Write On Track, LLC.  Her writing has been published or syndicated in The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, and other well-known platforms worldwide. Oh, and she’s a single mom of three amazing kids.

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