10 Ways to Keep Kids Writing All Summer Long!

By Shannon Anderson, author of  Mindset Power: A Kid’s Guide to Growing Better Every Day

shannon anderson daughterThis is a picture of my daughter, Maddie, from about ten summers ago. It was a beautiful summer day, and Maddie was spending some time outside writing. But this is not homework on her lap. She’s writing for fun!

Her favorite thing to write was plays. She would create a script, with her dolls and stuffed animals as the characters. Then, she would set them all up, gather props, and use her iPad to create a little video based on the play she wrote. We loved watching the finished product!

This is just one way to get creative with writing; there are lots of others. The sky’s the limit. You can encourage kids to write by letting them see you do it yourself, by writing together, or by signing them up for summer writing camps and workshops. You can also try some of the following ideas to get kids writing for fun.

10 Ways to Keep Kids Writing All Summer Long!

1. Write to an Author

What books do kids enjoy reading? Make a list of the authors and visit their websites. There is usually a “Contact Me” page. Have kids compose letters to the author and send the email. You may be surprised by how many authors write back to answer kids’ questions.

2. Compose a Story with a Friend

Have kids choose a friend or cousin to write a story with. It’s even more fun if this person lives far away. They can use Google Docs to see what each person is writing in real time, or they can write different parts of the story and mail them back and forth. The pair can plan together and take turns writing until they come up with a complete story.

3. Write a Poem

Poetry is a fun way to play around with words. You can show this video of me teaching how to write a shape poem to get kids going:

Here’s another video about how to write a cinquain poem:

You can also have kids try writing a haiku or an acrostic poem.

4. Start a Diary or Journal

Let kids pick out a special diary or journal, and encourage them to write in it each day. They can record what they did, how they felt, what they are looking forward to, or something new they are learning. There is no wrong way to write in a journal. This will be fun to read at the end of the summer as a reminder of all their adventures.

5. Write a Letter and Mail It

Yes, it is easier and more convenient to send a text or email, but it can be more personal and special when you write a good old-fashioned letter and send it through the mail. You’d be surprised how many kids do not know how to write a greeting and closing for a letter or how to properly address an envelope. If possible, encourage a pen-pal connection to keep the letter-writing going.

6. Connect with Elders

Have kids interview an older family member, neighbor, or family friend. What did they do as a child? What were their favorite subjects in school? What was their first job? What wisdom or life lessons can they share? Kids can record the stories as a special keepsake.

7. Write a Review

Kids will likely read some great books over the summer, so have them write a review of a book they enjoyed. If it is a favorable review, you can share it online or with the book’s author. It means the world to an author to see kids talk about their books and share why they connected with them. You could record kids reading their reviews and post them on social media. Tag the author if you are able. You may get a response!

8. Write an Autobiography

Kids can record their lives in chronological order, starting with birth. You can share memories, photos, or other items from when they were a baby and fill in what they don’t remember. Then kids can take it from there. They can add to their autobiography every summer with highlights from the year. For ideas about what to include, visit your local library and check out other autobiographies.

9. Use a Story Kit

There are several companies that offer story kits for kids. (One company is Studentreasures.) Kids write in the kit and send it off to be made into a hardcover book. This is an empowering activity that allows kids to become “published” young authors. They will take more pride in their stories if they know they can share them with others in book form.

10. Create a Pass-It-Around Story

If you have several people in your family or group, this is a lot of fun to do together. Sit around a table and give each person a piece of paper. Everyone needs to write the beginning of a story that introduces a character and a setting. After a few minutes, pass the papers to the left. Each person reads the paper that was handed to them and adds to the story. Set a timer for a few minutes and continue. If you have five or six people, you can stop when your original story returns to you. If you only have two or three, let the stories go around the table twice. Let the final person write an ending to go with the story. Take turns reading the stories aloud.

One final tip for keeping kids writing this summer is to allow them to create a special writing space. It might have a desk or table, a comfy chair, and a variety of writing pens and markers. Giving them the tools and the encouragement to write is the most important part. Of course, being a raving fan of their work helps too. Happy writing!

Shannon Anderson, M.Ed., authorShannon Anderson has taught for 25 years, from first grade through college level. Her career highlight was being named one of the Top 10 Teachers who inspired the Today Show. Shannon is also the author of many children’s books and a national speaker. She was named the JC Runyon Person of the Year for her work helping kids with social and emotional issues through her writing and speaking. To find out more, you can visit: shannoisteaching.com.

Free Spirit books by Shannon Anderson:

Mindset PowerY is for YetPenelope PerfectCoasting Casey

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Advice for Teens Experiencing Existential Crises: An Excerpt from The Gifted Teen Survival Guide

The Gifted Teen Survival Guide by Judy Galbraith and Jim Delisle, Ph.D., is the ultimate teen guide to thriving in a world that doesn’t always support or understand high ability. On today’s blog post, we’re sharing an excerpt from the chapter on being gifted and a teenager: Existential Crises 101.

Advice for Teens Experiencing Existential Crises: An Excerpt from The Gifted Teen Survival Guide

While you may have a knack for contemplating the great questions of life, you may also be more likely, as a gifted teen, to experience what is called an existential crisis, existential dread, or existential depression. An existential crisis occurs when your mind gets overwhelmed attempting to wrap itself around the infinite and unknowable. You may become fixated on the essential futility and meaninglessness of existence. Perhaps you’ve experienced a crisis like this already, or are in the middle of one now. These crises can be very pain­ful and troubling and can last for some time. They can be paired with clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, or they may be triggered by a major loss or change in your life, but they don’t have to be. In fact, exis­tential crises more often occur spontaneously in gifted people—for instance, on a random Tuesday afternoon during a rain shower.

Why might you be more prone to existential crises? Because as a gifted person you’re able to see possibilities where some people do not—possibilities of how the world might be—which can tend to make you an idealist. When you’re an idealist, you may be more likely to encounter major disappointment when you spot inconsistencies, arbitrariness, unfairness, absurdities, hypocrisy, indifference, injustice, and dishonesty in society . . . in other words, when the world does not match up to your ideals.

In addition, with your multipotentialities, you may grow frustrated with the existential limitations of space and time, and wonder: How can I possibly find enough hours in the day—or in my entire life—to pursue all of my talents, interests, and passions? Where do I begin narrowing down my goals and interests, and why should I have to? This disappointment and frustration can lead to strong feelings of sadness, fear, worry, apathy, and possibly anger, especially if you find that other teens (and even many adults) do not share your concerns or spend more time focusing on things that seem trivial to you.

But the truth is, it’s totally healthy and normal to experience existential crises. In fact, many middle-aged adults can relate to what you’re experienc­ing; only in their world it’s called a midlife crisis. You just happen to be expe­riencing an early-life crisis, as do some other gifted young people. See the following tips on how to deal with these crises.

Avoid spending a lot of time alone. Connect with a person you trust, whether it’s an adult or a peer, and share your concerns. You might start by saying, “I’ve been feeling really sad about all the trouble around the world and how powerless I am to stop it. Do you ever feel this way?”

Learn more about the existential issues that you think about or that worry you. Know that these issues may need to be considered fre­quently. They rarely “just go away.”

Just as babies need to be held and touched so they feel secure, people experiencing existential dread do too. Asking for (and giving) hugs can help defuse feelings of aloneness and insignificance.

Avoid being overly active in causes. Throwing yourself into environ­mental, political, academic, or social issues may overwhelm you. While some activism can give you a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose, stretching yourself too thin may make things worse. Moderation is key to taking care of yourself.

Read about people who have chosen specific paths to make real differences in their worlds. Try not to compare yourself with them— simply observe their choices. If you need book suggestions, talk to your school or community librarian, or search online. Ask adults and friends what books they may have read that they’d recommend.

Get out in nature. Spending time outdoors can be very healing and life-affirming.

Practice mindfulness, meditation, or other methods of relaxation. Quieting your mind can be difficult, but learning about and practicing mindfulness will go a long way toward keeping existential worries and emotional challenges at bay. Look into classes or meditation centers in your area to learn about how to get started if you don’t already practice. It’ll be worth the effort. You are worth the effort.

Get immediate help if you are depressed. If you grow frustrated and isolated enough with your own powerlessness to change or comprehend existence, it can lead to a very serious depression and even thoughts of suicide. If this happens, tell an adult you trust immediately.

Do your best to stay hopeful and optimistic. This doesn’t just happen—it takes effort. Seek out music, poetry, books, and people that will uplift you.

Adapted from The Gifted Teen Survival Guide by Judy Galbraith, M.A., and Jim Delisle, Ph.D., copyright © 2022. Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; freespirit.com. All rights reserved.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Enter for a Chance to Win Mental Health Resources!

Enter for a Chance to Win Mental Health Resources

This month we are giving away a set of mental health books valued at up to $315. One lucky winner will select one of these eight curated book sets:

To Enter: Leave a comment below sharing how you support mental health in kids.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry. Entries must be received by midnight, May 20, 2022.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around May 31, 2022, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winner must be US resident, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2022 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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How to Help Teens Find Their Passion and Do What They Love

By Rayne Lacko, coauthor of Dream Up Now™: The Teen Journal for Creative Self-Discovery

How to Help Teens Find Their Passion and Do What They LoveIn an uncertain world, being uncertain of yourself can create anxiety. Feeling anxious can mean different things to different teens. It can take the form of vulnerability or shame, it may make a teen feel powerless or too sensitive, or it may manifest as worry about the future.

From the time children are very small, curious and caring adults ask: “What do you want to do when you grow up?” And we often ask one another a variation of this question: “What do you do?” It seems harmless. However, during the teen years, this question is loaded, and can cause a lot of anxiety. Its answer represents a decision that will forge a young person’s post-secondary school experience, and for many teens, forms an impression of the adult life they’ll have long after high school is a distant memory.

We do well to remember that, for teens, discovering their passion—and answering the question of what they want to do as adults—can feel like a high-stakes test. (In reality, how many of us can truly say we’re following our passion and doing what we love?) But you can remind teens that discovering what they love doesn’t have to be stress-filled; it can be a lot of fun.

Anxiety Lurks in Bright Places

Often the more potential a thing holds for a teen, the more anxiety they’ll have about it. Big tests and exams? Check. Important athletic competitions? You got it. Dating? Absolutely. So it makes sense that uncovering their passion can cause a certain amount of stress.

There’s a risk involved whenever we expose a desire for accomplishment. This is especially true for teens, who developmentally are in a phase of self-discovery. That guitar propped in the corner represents last year’s love of alt rock. The too-small soccer cleats and cosplay costume half-buried in the back of the closet demonstrate how feelings can change. If a teen reveals a passion to the world and then changes their mind, they may feel anxiety if others expect them to follow through on a skill or talent that no longer interests them. Even bright possibilities—like doing well on a test or making the team—can cause anxiety.

You can use this fun free-drawing activity to invite teens to mine the secret triggers of anxiety and focus in on what they want. What interests or desires will they discover?

Comic Panel about Anxiety

Click the image to download PDF!

What Is Passion and How Can Teens Find It?

Some people know from an early age exactly what they want to do with their lives. They don’t have to question what they “should” be doing; their passion found them first. For other people, finding their passion isn’t quite so easy.

A passion can be anything a teen discovers, explores, and enjoys so much that they choose to dedicate time and attention to it. In doing so, the teen’s enthusiasm for the activity or topic continues to grow. As an adult, you might notice that you can’t get the teen’s attention—because the teen is totally absorbed in what they’re doing and, once they stop, is eager for the next time they’ll do it (Proe 2020).

What If a Teen’s Passion Isn’t Exactly a College Major?

If a teen is not strong academically, isn’t an artist, or isn’t into sports or other extracurricular activities, they might wonder what exactly is their passion. As a caring adult, keep in mind that passion frequently lies in being a part of something bigger than oneself (Berry 2020), and remind teens of this.

One of the most effective things a teen can do to turn a hobby like gaming, comic book collecting, or gameshow watching into a career is to go where people are making a living at it. By telling people about their passions and interests, they can connect with relevant groups and causes. They might volunteer at a conference or seek an internship or entry-level position at a studio, design house, or distributor. The day-to-day work they do isn’t what matters—their deep interest and enthusiasm is. And leaders of those industries can point an interested and enthusiastic teen down an appropriate learning path. Doing what they are good at makes teens six times as likely to be engaged, and more than three times as likely to be happy with their life (Rath and Harter 2014).

What If a Teen Has Several Interests?

Rarely is passion found by thinking about it, following trends, or doing what peers or parents want. Teens must take action and find their own way to what brings them joy and inspires their curiosity.

If a teen wants to determine which of several interests is worth cultivating into a passion, one powerful technique is to dedicate the very best of themselves each time they engage in the interest. This requires that they throw themselves into an activity or interest 100 percent, allowing themselves to engage and play as they did when they were little: for fun and without any concern for the outcome. This full-throttle commitment to give their all must be in pursuit of joy, of satisfying curiosity, and of feeling good. This approach will quickly weed out those interests that aren’t worth the energy and uncover a teen’s authentic strengths. By fully giving of the self, a teen can differentiate between an interest that is fun for an afternoon and a passion they wish to develop and explore again and again.

What If a Teen Doesn’t Have a Clue What They Want to Do?

One of the most common obstacles to living a passion-based life is figuring out what you’re passionate about in the first place. “We focus too much on our teens’ weaknesses, and not enough on uncovering talent or passion,” says Maitland (Berry 2020).

So if a teen is experiencing difficulty uncovering their passion, they might look to their personal space for important clues. They might consider the items and decorations in this space and make a list of “passion candidates”: things they like to do, hobbies, or objects they’ve chosen for their room may spark ideas. That guitar in the corner might be grounded in a love for music; a soccer player may discover that it’s not the sport they’re passionate about, but being part of a team; a display of Lego projects may reflect an affinity for design, architecture, science, or technology—or screenwriting, travel, or even product development. Encourage teens to explore what their hearts and bodies tell them when they think about these pursuits. What makes them feel alive, enthusiastic, and energetic? What makes them feel bored? (Chang 2000).

If teens still aren’t sure, they might consider how they can contribute to their community. As mentioned earlier, being part of something bigger than oneself is, statistically, a surefire way to improve overall happiness and confidence and bring a deeper sense of purpose. Feeling as if you are a part of something bigger is another way to spark passion.

A Quick Quiz to Uncover Teens’ Interests

The leadership tools that accompany the Dream Up Now journal include a mini-quiz (see pages 17–22 in the free download) that can help teens uncover their interests. These thoughtful questions shine a light on teens’ strengths and on those interests that light them up.

Though this quiz can be helpful for self-discovery and brainstorming, keep in mind that no amount of knowledge can light the fire of passion. Action is required! Passion is sparked by engagement—by giving oneself fully to an activity.

Getting Unstuck

If teens are feeling stuck, encourage them to focus on the present moment. It’s okay not to know what they’ll be doing a few years from now. Rather than becoming stymied waiting for the perfect gig or the one thing they think they can stick with forever, taking a job (any legitimate paying position) can get them unstuck. Going to college (for anything they don’t abjectly hate) can get them unstuck. Volunteering (in any capacity for a worthy cause they believe in) can get them unstuck. Anxiety may follow; remember, it is attracted to the unfamiliarity of trying new things. However, in this way, anxiety is a positive indicator: it means the teen got out there and tried something that was scary or that they deeply valued. It means the teen prioritized the longing in their heart ahead of their worry about the outcome. Frankly, anxiety would likely follow if the teen didn’t try at all, which would further reinforce the stuck feeling. If the result of trying or not trying is anxiety either way, isn’t it better to risk earning what you truly desire?

Remind young people that it’s okay to fail. And it’s okay to if they don’t really enjoy what their friends—or you—enjoy. It’s also okay to be so-so at something, because they’re free to move on and try another thing, and another, and another.

Passion Is Sparked by Engagement

The more a teen steps up to try new things, the more they’ll learn about what matters to them, and the clearer they’ll be about the life they wish to create. Expect some fluctuation in teens’ interests; it’s not uncommon for a passion to dwindle during the teen years (due to academic and social pressure) then reignite at a later time. Put off scheduling more lessons, buying more equipment, or seeking a mentor unless a teen is fully engaged (Proe 2020).

Keeping in mind that they aren’t locked in forever, invite teens to try giving their 100 percent enthusiasm when working at their part-time job, doing homework, or practicing a musical instrument or sport—just as an experiment to see what happens. Daring to give generously of yourself is the first step to finding passion. Finding your passion can be a fun and playful exploration. Teens can release considerable anxiety by letting go of the pressure to choose one thing and stick with it forever. When a teen builds their life around something they love, this is an act of loving themselves. And nothing is more important than that relationship.

Works Cited

Berry, P. 2020. “Where’s the Passion? How to Help Your Teenager Find His Unique Talents and Skills.” ADDitude, October 9, 2020. additudemag.com/wheres-the-passion.

Chang, R. Y. 2000. The Passion Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Proe, J. 2022. “How to Find Your Passion in Life (And Not Just for College Admissions.” Your Teen, accessed April 19, 2022. yourteenmag.com/teenager-school/teens-high-school/how-to-find-your-passion-in-life.

Rath, T., and J. Harter. 2014. Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements. New York: Gallup Press.

Rayne LackoRayne Lacko is a Young Adult author and an advocate for the arts as a form of social and emotional well-being. A teen-writing mentor, she cohosts a youth creative workshop, an annual writing camp, and a teen arts showcase. Through her work, she inspires young people and their families to use creativity to stimulate positive change in their lives and communities. Rayne lives near Seattle, Washington, with her spouse and two boys (a pianist and a drummer), a noisy cat, and her canine best friend.

Dream Up NowRayne is the coauthor of Dream Up Now™: The Teen Journal for Creative Self-Discovery.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2022 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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How Educators Can Set Boundaries for Work-Life Balance

By Stephanie Filio, M.Ed., author of Responding to Student Trauma: A Toolkit for Schools in Times of Crisis

How Educators Can Set Boundaries for Work-Life BalanceMy mother has always worked in the banking industry. She started with opening people’s safety deposit boxes and has worked in many different positions over her career. I grew up learning the ins and outs of the corporate world at our dinner-table conversations. I try to keep these talks in mind in my work as a school counselor, because it can be easy to close ourselves in our own experience and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Especially now, as our plates have become so full, educators imagine life outside the red tape of government work and dream of the simpler green grass of other careers. We might imagine that working elsewhere would mean the absence of stress, increased value, overtime pay, and protection from unfair litigation. But we must remember that this is not always true.

The stress of the past few years has left many educators feeling a sense of hopelessness. But I am a firm believer that this does not have to be so. In the same way that we work to empower our students as they face obstacles, we can empower ourselves in our career. We can continue to enjoy our jobs while supporting our own work-life balance and well-being.

Setting Boundaries

So, what can we do to be mindful of our mental health so that we can outlast the negative hype about education?

Lean on others

We have amazing colleagues that become our team of support. I have no idea what I would do if I didn’t work with so many amazing people who have helped me conquer the tough times. But I also try to consciously discuss and enjoy things with my work family that don’t have to do with work. They are amazing people with amazing lives, and it’s important to remember that we are more than our positions!

In addition to surrounding yourself with other wonderful educators, it’s okay to dip outside that pool as well. I have made a habit of getting coffee at a quick and local place every morning before work. It has become a bit of self-care that I rely on to start my day, and a reminder that there is a whole other world outside of my school and its hallways. Though it may sound simple, this practice is just what I have needed to keep a better perspective and the bigger picture in sight this year.

Toxic positivity versus positive change

To not become victims of the “classroom crisis” game, educators need to learn how to operate confidently in our field. Bringing positivity to the school and keeping the school culture in check is part of this! But being a positive force of change is different than being a person who exudes toxic positivity. Here’s the difference:

Toxic positivity is the facade of using positive words to avoid fully acknowledging negative feelings or situations. Toxic positivity can leave others feeling downhearted, even if that’s not the intention.

Positive forces of change, on the other hand, acknowledge reality and choose to work through difficulties with the intention of being a changemaker and elevating others.

Positioning ourselves as positive changemakers not only helps us make our school a more enjoyable place to work, but it also puts our roles in check. While I am at work, it is part of my job to be an active agent of change in my school. When I am home, my kids or family might want to just exist with me or tell me about their experiences and ideas without my input. They may feel more autonomy if I leave that part of myself at work and let them learn on their own, and I will feel less taxed if I let go of always being the problem-solving positivity junkie!

It’s okay to go, and coming back is optional

I remember hearing an interview with a teacher who said, “If I lived my life for summers, I would be giving up eight months of my life every year.” I always try to think about this when I feel like I am just getting through each day, existing from break to break. When I get to this point, I know it is time for me to take a half- or full-day to reset at home if I can, or set boundaries on the weekends so I can really refuel.

I know it can be hard to feel free to take a day off in our line of work. But the way I see it, if we don’t want to burn out, it would be better to find a sub for a mental health day than a new hire for the remainder of the year! Our students will benefit from our renewal as well. If eventually we find that life is wearing us down despite all our efforts, it’s also okay to leave. Not because the profession pushed us out, but because we chose to.

Advocate and Appreciate!

We can continue to advocate for our education profession and point out injustices, while enjoying and committing to our work. My recently retired mom and I were comparing some things between her work and mine. The main similarity was that each person must be mindful not to feed negativity to maintain a positive work culture for all. The biggest difference? Our work with clientele.

My mom pointed out that, in her professional world, they were fighting for more clients and sales. In my professional world, we have clients coming out our ears! When she would get home from work, she would have to turn off the impulse to sell, manage, and win the domain. When I get home, I have to strive to suspend control, impact, and governance.

We bring our whole hearts with us to work, but we don’t want to leave them there. At the end of the day, we have a job to do, but we also have a life to live. Do you have any tips or advice for maintaining a positive and healthy work-life balance? Share them in the comments!

Stephanie Filio, author of Responding to Student TraumaStephanie Filio is a middle school counselor in Virginia Beach. She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and her M.Ed. in counseling from Old Dominion University. In a discussion with one of her UVA professors about her desire to stay in school forever, her mentor wisely responded, “If you want to be a lifelong learner, go into education,” and so she found her place. Prior to her six years as a school counselor, Stephanie worked in private education, specializing in standardized tests, test preparation, and future planning. She writes about her career and hobbies at her blog, Weekend Therapy, and can be found on Twitter @steffschoolcoun. Stephanie also enjoys spending time with her books, crafts, and family.

Responding to Student TraumaStephanie is the author of Responding to Student Trauma: A Toolkit for Schools in Times of Crisis.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2022 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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