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If work is unavailable, consider the value of summer service. Some teens I know take summer mission trips with youth groups in the Appalachians. There, they meet lonely older folks with leaky roofs and dirty homes — people who need them. These teens shovel out living rooms full of old newspapers and trash. They replace sagging gutters, patch drywall holes and weed gardens. And they return home renewed in gratitude and purpose.

This summer, help your children look for opportunities to give to others and/or learn about the value of honest work — to discover that their leisure time should have a purpose. If they use their time well, they will return to school restored and refreshed, ready for the challenges ahead.

• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at