Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Why can't I just chill??

Its that time of the year again. The heats on and everyone is retreating indoors. School ‘s winding down and us parents wonder how to survive the 2 months of hols. Most of us plan holidays overseas or to our home countries. There used to be a time in the UAE when it felt as if everyone had left. Times have changed dramatically.  A lot of people are opting to stay back and shoulder on during the hot months. And on every parents’ lips come forth the inevitable ‘So what are your children going to do these 2 months’ Are you sending them to a summer camp?
Schools out??!!

For us parents with older teens it’s a challenge to find stuff that they will appreciate and really be motivated to get involved in. It’s a definite challenge. At work, we are often asked by parents about summer programs and what their child should do during summer.  When we pose this question back to said Teen, 99% of the time we get the stock answer ‘I just wnt to chill’ . Yup they just want to chill.’  And every time I do an inward eye roll cos this is something I hear at home all the time as well

In the UAE recognizing this need, summer camps have mushroomed in every corner. Sports camps, Theater workshops, Swim Club, Summer computer programming etc. All to get your child engaged in some form of meaningful activity.  Its easier when the children are younger because you more or less made up their minds for them if you get my drift. But the older lot are more vocal and selective.  So the question is how can we get our children to make use of the summer months better without the grumbles.

So I say to you young adults…
Yes, the summer months are a break from the rules and rigor of school, Yes ,it is Time Out for you to relax and Chill(there’s that word again) which you can do and you should. But the 60 days or so are also opportunities for you to do things you have always wanted to do but couldn’t, due to school. Learn a new skill perhaps. Yes, you can still work your play station and watch movies or games and Chill with friends (who are around) There will still be time enough for you to do stuff. Be honest. You know you will get bored quite a number of times during those 60 days. That’s why a lot of teens put on weight, cos the moment they get bored they get hungry. I wonder if there are some statistics on the correlation between boredom and weight gain.

So how can you make summer a wonderful time for you and your family.
First off, make sure you MOVE. Don’t sleep your summer away. The teen years weight gain is REAL. There are changes happening in your body and exercise is the best way to maintain physical and mental strength. Plus, you will still be able to get into those jeans once school starts. Look out for activities that will feed your passion. Don’t hesitate specially if the price is right and timings great, go for it. Never mind that none of your friends are interested. They might not even be around. So may be a fabulous way to make new friends outside of your school. 

Feed your passion , Try out new things
I hear you when you say things are expensive here in Dubai.   Okay let’s see what else you can do which doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.  There are wonderful FREE workshops happening around town, workshops on photography, pottery, parkour. What a wonderful way to test the waters before diving in. For you Film buffs, The Scene club is absolutely free and screens those foreign and independent movies that  may not come to the big screens here. There’s a lot of stuff to try out and to learn but you have got to get moving, start looking. Be proactive. I promise you the sense of ‘high’ or sense of achievement afterwards will be so worth it, you know .

How about Volunteering? I can hear the groans already. For those of you going into the last crucial years of high school, know that this can be an opportunity to hone skills and it may be that it relates to your  particular interests as well.  Plus it will be something to add on to your ever developing portfolio which you MUST start to think about. Remember during the academic year most volunteer opportunities are during school hours when you have to be at school.

Getting an INTERNSHIP here is also a terrific idea but in this part of the world it is very difficult to identify suitably structured ones which are ‘legal’. Parents need to jump in to call in favors from friends and family.  Remember, Summers are the only possible times that you can job shadow at a stretch and there’s nothing like a first hand experience is there?  Job shadowing is crucial for one to understand the various processes and functions in a corporate /a small enterprise. A perfect way to understand if a particular job function is for you or not.

What about Summer programs I hear you ask?  Well that requires a bit of planning and research. Most of the universities now offer fabulous programs during the summer months. These programs are wonderful in the way they provide an experience of being a Uni student taking courses at first tier universities. But research is key. A lot of them is all fun but there are well structured programs which involves Uni visits, skills for learning, specialist subjects and leadership modules and others which are credit bearing as swell. If finances are not an issue, go ahead. Do remember that these summer programs at Oxford, UC Berkeley , Yale etc are  not an assurance that you will be accepted into their programs later.  However, the experience will without a doubt enrich you in so many ways. At the least you will be forced to move out of your comfort zone, interact with other International students giving you an understanding of their education, projects, achievements , culture and so much more, which surprises of surprises you may actually enjoy.  AS a parent whose child is in that phase where decisions need to be made , I am always in search of programs where children can rub shoulders with highly motivated students from other parts of the world.. Our children from Dubai, sometimes, need to understand how much more they can achieve all around and in the process discover themselves.  

With a lot of folks here, summers mean going back to one’s home country.  Sometimes especially with more nuclear families, it’s a challenge to keep our teens engaged specially if WiFI is iffy and there’s no easy access to malls etc.  With the high dependence on internet and gadgets, things can get tricky. Irritability, boredom, inactivity and aloofness abound.  Guys don’t sweat the small stuff. Immerse yourself, explore your roots, ask questions, start on a family tree right from your grandfather’s grandfather.  I remember one summer when my son and his cousin both 3rd culture kids sat down with their grandparents and tried to draw their family tree. Not using any APP or a gadget. Boy ,did they have fun and at the end of it us parents  knew a lot more as well.( but I clearly remember the groans and resentment when the idea was first mooted)  But really its just a month or so.  Rather than spending the time feeling bored , resentful  sorry for yourself, do something about it.  Potter around home.  You might discover some antique stuff. Recently at my home a pile of LPs was discovered and with LPs making a huge comeback it was excitement galore and also a realisation that hey Mom and Dad you were a cool lot.  Learn to create a couple of yummy dishes, take photographs, walk along dusty streets with your parents and retrace their journey.  VLog it , Blog it!! Explore the heritage of your country and take pride in it. As expats you know we cant stay in Dubai forever, specially boys. Dubai may only be a stepping stone for many of you . BTW guys its these experiences that you can draw from when you start tackling those essays for Universities.

I didn’t realize that I would have some much to talk about Summers(!) I would like to end on a more serious note. For those of you preparing to enter a very challenging high school program, where you know you will need all the help you can get, start looking around to see how you can address those concerns. 4 hours a week dedicated to plugging skill gaps academically will work wonders. Those of you going on to tough IB courses, a head start in understanding CAS requirements, special project etc is always useful.  I promise you there will be a jump in your steps when you walk in through those school gates come September, your uniform pants sitting perfectly around your waists, knowing that you have achieved so much stuff that meant a lot to you(not anyone else) and are absolutely grade ready. 

And the best part of it is that you would have also chilled.


  1. Excellent read. Definitely recommend for every student.