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What Should a School Holiday Look Like for Our Older Teens?

Guidance for Global Families
By Natasha Winnard
What Should a School Holiday Look Like for Our Older Teens?

Many families with older teens will be having conversations about the next school year. That may mean courses like the UK A levels, US Advanced Placement (AP) courses, or the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. Each of these pathways is “pre-university.” In other words, they are designed to get your teen into university or college.

Each of these pathways is different. However, the key to a successful start to the final two years of school often begins with how well teens have spent their holiday time before they start. But what does that mean in practical terms? What opportunities do the holidays offer for older teens?

Rest and Recharge: Our teens need to rest and recharge. This is incredibly important so that they are ready to start the final years of school. Many teens are still working out their optimal sleeping patterns, so we need to be a bit flexible to accommodate their need for sleep during daylight hours! But resting and recharging are not just about sleep. Slowing down and knowing that it is okay to spend some time doing nothing are both ways in which we recover after periods of stress.

Family, Friends, and Fun: Holiday time is an important time for parents and caregivers to spend with our teens. Focus on planning activities that connect you to your teens. Eating together is often a great way to enjoy the family time which isn’t always possible during the school year. Ask them to choose a cafe, restaurant, or food delivery option. Or (if you are brave!) ask them to cook for the family once a week! This time may also include invaluable grandparent and extended family time. Our teens will also want to spend time with friends both face-to-face and remotely. This may include time with friends from previous schools around the world, especially for our mobile families. This is an incredibly important time for our teens to know that life is not all grind. Sadly, the school can sometimes seem like it is. So, the holidays need to redress the balance.

Get Some Experiences: The holiday provides stress-free time for conversations about what life after school may look like. This may be a time to gain some hands-on work experience, attend a face-to-face or virtual university, take a career route course, go on a university campus tour, or do some university research. It is amazing how often experiences gained in the summer before A levels or the IB feature in university applications!

School Readiness: It isn’t a contradiction to use a small part of the holiday to get ready for the new school year. Before the holidays, it is worth finding out what academic preparation may help your teen get off to a good start when they return to school for their pre-university studies. In the final week of the holiday, our teens need to be getting back into their school sleep and exercise routines. Also, getting their study space and school supplies organized and ready to go for a strong start on day one of school is important. 

Each of our teens is special and unique. Try to avoid comparing your teens’ summer plans with their classmates. Work with your teen to plan a holiday that creates a healthy balance, meets their needs, and supports them to be ready for the next stage in their education. 

Natasha Winnard has come across many amazing young people in more than 20 years as an international educator, guidance and college counselor, and mentor in schools in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. Natasha Winnard Consultancy provides holistic, personalized guidance for young people and their families looking for support in the world of international education.

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