Skill your teenager over the holidays

Schools will start closing at the end of the week for the long summer break and most of us will have our teenagers back home with nothing to do but check their phones every 30 seconds and binge watch the World Cup. Some unlucky parents will have to deal with grumpy teens at best and bad behaviour at worst. Stress you can do without.

So what to do? Well, add some structure to their free time by giving them something to focus on. Some will be able to make a few bucks just enough to finance their own airtime. Others will make enough for a fancy takeaway or two. Others will be happy just to lend a helping hand. Your actions could help plant that entrepreneurial spirit into them, that spirit that this country so very much needs right now. It should also have a positive influence on the adult your child will become.

So what are the options?

Raise chickens
Most teenagers I know want to take a chiwamba (roast chicken) when going back to boarding school in September or October. What better way for them to take one than to make them raise one! All you may need is a simple chicken tractor that any odd carpenter can put together pretty easily. Actually the less glamorous tractors can be put together by your teenager. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just needs to work.

If you doubt their animal raising skills, get them spent layers. This would simply be an exercise in getting them to take responsibility like ensuring they are fed on time and the tractor is moved around. If you are going to provide a helping hand, get them half a dozen two weeks old chicks, some growers mash and food trays. These are more fragile and need a bit of extra care, probably more than a novice can give.

Moving the tractor around on the lawn or on your recently harvested veggie patch has its advantages – those chickens will scratch up the soil eating pests while fertilising it for your next batch of greens. And by the time schools open, there is their chiwamba… and five for you!

Bake and cater
Every teenager has an aunt or family friend who just loves cakes and other eats. Sure they will happily dole out a few Kwachas to buy a cupcake or two every few days. If they won’t do it happily, make them feel guilty about not doing it! They, as the youth group, could organise a tea morning at your church.

Just make sure they have the load shedding programme handy. Nothing worse than the power going off 10 minutes after they plonked the cake in the oven!

They could cater dinner or a sundowner for a small fee. Cook up a braai, some roast potatoes and serve drinks from a bucket full of ice. There are a dime a dozen cocktail recipes online. You could always lend them your newest apron to make it look a tad bit professional! Nothing too complicated.

Garden work
Yup, not everyone’s piece of cake but it has to be done. The weather may not be conducive for most vegetables but some will still grow. A packet or two of quick maturing vegetable seeds should do the trick. For a headstart, buy them the seeds now and get your gardener to sow them in readiness for when your ward is back home. Alternatively, ask your horticulture farmer friend (we all have at least one) for excess seedlings. I have seen some farmers selling them at the Lilongwe Food Market.

If vegetables are not your cup of tea, buy your teenager some flowers from the many vendors selling along the major roads in town. Assign them a corner of the garden and see what they can make of it. Send your gardener on leave for a fortnight so they have no one to do their dirty work.

Dog Bath
Your teenager is the family dog lover? Great, get her a few bottles of dog dip, a bucket and a brush. Time to scrub a few dogs! Dog dips are almost non-existent and most of our furry friends could do with a much needed bath. And a bit of loving tender care.

Teach French
So, your young monsieur prances around the house faire semblant de parler Francais (pretending to speak French)? Brilliant! He could well put those skills to good use by tutoring other students struggling with the language. He can set up a class under that big garden tree for an hour every other weekday morning. As he becomes more confident in his tutoring, he could record a few sessions a put them up as a podcast for other kids elsewhere to use.

Make crafts
Do you have a collection of old cables, broken dinosaurs of computers, heaps of newspapers and sacks of old wine bottles? Ask that creative genius of yours to turn that pile of junk into some lovely pieces of art. Not sure where to sell? Facebook and Instagram – they just need to figure out the shipping logistics. But remember I said ‘your creative genius’. They will figure it out. The Lilongwe Farmers Market is another place. The church bookshop?

If your ward is all about having fun and doesn’t mind not making a extra buck or two then they could put their organisational skills to the test by organising a few sporting events. This would require some teamwork, collaboration and planning with other friends – all necessary skills they need to learn now.

Ask the head of a nearby school to use their basketball or netball court for a few games each week. Or the school football pitch for footie or athletic events. They can even make it more interesting by having a parents sporting day. A good way to convince parents to invest in some prizes! Create a Facebook or Instagram page for their league so they actually attract other participants.

The church is always in need of a few extra hands. There are those benches that need fixing and varnishing, the hall that needs cleaning (yes, that Lilongwe dust is here with a vengeance) or unused items of clothing that need to be collected from parishioners houses for distribution to the needy.

I could go on and on.

The bottom line is that long holidays are a chance for your teenager to learn a new, beneficial skill or pursue a healthy hobby. This will prepare them for what awaits them in the years to come. Help them focus on an activity that requires them to structure their day, hustle, get their hands dirty and hopefully make a difference.

Cover Image credit: Partners Makutu and his Chicken Tractor
Other images from Wikipedia and Pixabay

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Austin Madinga's Life Unbound