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Healthy Choices: How Your Child Can Stay Out of Trouble This Summer
For those of you who have young children or grandchildren who watch Phineas and Ferb, you might reorganize the following: There's 104 days in summer vacation / and school comes along just to end it. / So the annual problem for our generation / is finding a good way to spend it.
I bring this up because at this time every year, many parents and concerned caregivers are faced with the dilemma of what to do with kids over the summer.
It would be nice if we only had to worry about our children or teens getting into Phineas-and-Ferb-type adventures, like finding a dodo bird or giving a monkey a shower! In reality, summertime is the time for real-life kids to get into real-life trouble, like substance abuse or risky sexual behavior.
To help all of you along, here are some tips for helping your child or adolescent enjoy a summer filled with fun—and healthy choices:
- Talk with your child or teen about healthy choices & risky behavior. Hopefully you're already having age-appropriate conversations about smoking, sex, alcohol, and other drugs. Continue those discussions, and start including conversations about other unhealthy behaviors that might tempt them during summer vacation, such as prescription drug abuse and gambling.
- Monitor prescription drugs in your home. Your child or teen may not need to leave home to get high. Surveys have found that 24% of teens reported using a prescription drug without a doctor's prescription. Or, nearly 50% said they believe prescription drugs are safer than illicit street drugs. Monitor prescriptions needed by family members, and safely dispose of unneeded doses.
- Set boundaries. Establish age-appropriate curfews as well as boundaries for computer/smartphone use and Internet access. Enforce all rules so your child or teen learns that—just as in an adult's life—breaking rules will have consequences.
- Know your child's friends & their parents. Go beyond just knowing their names! Invite your child's friends to your home occasionally so you can get to know them better—and it's a good idea to connect with the parents of those friends too. Also make sure your child understands that if he or she ever feels uncomfortable or has concerns about risky behavior while with a friend that he or she can call you right away.
When putting information for this article, I realized that maybe I should also provide is a list of ideas for activities to keep kids from getting bored this summer and create memories that they'll have for a lifetime (or at least for that first day of school when the teacher asks, "What did you do this summer?").
So here goes with about 20 them:
- 1.Practice making interesting shadow puppets and then put on a show with your characters.
- 2.Plant a garden of herbs and veggies.
- 3.Make a sidewalk chalk mural and invite the neighbor kids to join in the fun.
- 4.Turn the backyard into a carnival — set up a face painting area and games like ring toss.
- 5.Make totem poles out of paper towel rolls and decorate them.
- 6.Visit a museum you've never been to.
- 7.Make a giant hopscotch or Twister game on the lawn (with spray paint) or driveway (with chalk).
- 8.Make a bird house out of Popsicle sticks.
- 9.Break out your baseball glove and start a game, sandlot style.
- 10.Play mini-golf — or set up a course in your driveway by laying different size containers on their sides.
- 11.Visit a fire station.
- 12.Collect rocks and paint them to use as paperweights or pet rocks.
- 13.Let kids paint the sidewalk or patio with plain old water and sponge brushes. When their creation dries, they can begin again.
- 14.Stage your own Summer Olympics with races, hurdles and relays.
- 15.Volunteer at an animal adoption organization.
- 16.Visit a retirement home and read stories to residents.
- 17.Go camping in the backyard or at a campsite.
- 18.Go to a minor league ballgame and teach your kids (and yourself) how to keep a scorecard.
- 19.Set up a tent in the backyard to use as a summer playhouse.
- 20.Take a free kid's workshop at stores like Lowe's, Home Depot or Pottery Barn.
And if you implement any of these, please write to me and let me know how it worked out. Just have fun!