SUMMER PARENTING: AN APPROACH TO KEEP YOUR KIDS ACTIVE
Category: Kim's Corner
Unless you are a stay-at-home parent (or a teacher who actually can take summers off), you probably don’t have the luxury of hanging out with your kids every day for three months. A full-time job makes it tricky to help your kids maintain an active schedule without the aid of school, clubs and sports—especially when they’d rather have a summer schedule that involves a combination of sleeping and Snapchatting. Whatever that is.
As a mom of twin boys, I remember the struggle of summer parenting all too well. Being active, even for non-teenagers, requires motivation that comes from within. I’ll loosely define being active here as “standing up.” Ha! Seriously! Doing chores, walking to a friend’s house, or walking the dog counts. And if your kids are old enough to be alone while you’re at work, you can still help them avoid wasting hours on the couch.
How do you typically approach creating boundaries and healthy habits with your kids? Here’s how my parents did it:
Your curfew is 11 p.m. sharp. If you’re even one minute late, you will be grounded.
Well, that could work… for some. But what if you formed a question that went something like this:
What time do you think you should be home tonight to meet the needs of your day tomorrow?
Showing your children how to set their own limits helps prepare them for a smooth transition into adulthood. Won’t it be nice to know they’re capable of making disciplined decisions based on their own needs, which, thanks to you, they have already been empowered to consider?
The same approach can be applied when you want them to have a healthy summer.
Instead of saying, School is out next week. This summer I don’t want you playing video games all day, okay? try: School is out next week. Let’s make a schedule for you to follow so you don’t fall into a rut. What three active things would you choose to do in addition to playing video games for an hour a day?
The first line, though it comes from a good place, is not exactly supportive and doesn’t actually accomplish anything positive. You haven’t given your child helpful tools or even a clear idea of what it is you actually want. Why should s/he buy in?
The second method is an invitation for them to hold themselves accountable with a schedule that includes room for their favorite thing. You’ve also provided a specific guideline that they can run with: choose three things that are active besides playing video games. Now they have buy-in.
Technology can be your friend in this scenario. Kids are driven by it, right? Then challenge them to be active through their favorite medium of communication! Kids love challenges, especially when they can win by competing against themselves.
Enter the FitBit, which lets kids engage with each other digitally in an activity forum rather than a video game forum. All FitBits track your steps and come with an app that allows fellow users to chat with each other. I personally use it and love it. My friends and I use the forum to taunt each other, cheer each other on, and check in daily to keep the inspiration (competition) going strong.
Here’s to a happy, active summer!