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Help your teen build a summer bucket list

June 26, 2013 at 8:24 AM ET

What will your teenagers do this summer?

Teen dreams are accumulating online and according to popular Tumblr and Pinterest pages, some teens want to “go on a banana boat,” “bake Nutella cupcakes” or “be the girl everyone wants to date.”

Teenagers seem to be embracing the concept of creating bucket lists, or inventories of experiences and milestones to conquer. But are they really buying into the spirit of such lists?

Naperville, Ill., mom Lara Krupicka is the author of "Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure & Camaraderie Into Every Day." Krupicka hopes her methods help kids move beyond such goals as “become Mrs. Bieber” and on to something they can really be proud of.

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What does your teen want to accomplish this summer? A bucket list could make the break more memorable.

For most teenagers, summer is a long stretch of freedom. Bucket lists provide a structure to practice getting something done by a certain date.

Krupicka believes that using bucket lists helps her family live more intentionally and helps children create significant experiences and accomplishments.

She encourages parents to “head off the brain drain” of summer by helping teens work toward physical, mental, and spiritual experiences that will add up to a summer of meaning.

Creating the list helps kids define what really matters to them. It could be anything from seeing a favorite band in concert and planning a big party for friends to getting a babysitter certification.

“It’s about getting them to think through the things they really want to do,” says Krupicka. Working toward those goals builds self-esteem and time management skills.

“During the school year you don’t have such a wide open window,” she says, but tight deadlines can actually make it easier to do what you have to do.

“Sometimes it’s harder to get things done when you have more time,” she adds.

Concrete goals also facilitate the healthy practice of failure.

“Working through a summer bucket list gives kids the freedom to fail at tasks or time management when the stakes are low,” Krupicka says. She stresses keeping teens on track, but also letting them know, “If you fail, that’s okay. We’re going to come at this again.”

And what about those outrageous items teenagers will inevitably add to their lists?

Krupicka says go ahead and let them, and then help them keep adding to that list until they get to something realistic. Creating the list helps kids define what really matters to them.

“It’s got to be their list,” she says. “You can’t shoot down their ideas.”

Parents can adopt the process for themselves, too. Ease into the “bucket list lifestyle” with an inventory of things you want to experience together as a family.

“It gets each member of the family moving toward and cheering on each other’s goals and passions,” says Krupicka. Bottom line: “Get out there and make something fun happen.”

Do you use bucket lists? Let us know in the comments below or on the TODAY Moms Facebook page.

Lela Davidson is the author of "Blacklisted from the PTA," and "Who Peed on My Yoga Mat?" Her thoughts on marriage, motherhood, and lifeafter40 have appeared in hundreds of magazines, websites, and anthologies.

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