In It For Health

Where health and psychology intersect

Posts Tagged ‘summer’

A Teachable Moment: Summer structure is essential for kids and teens

Posted by Dr. Susan on June 4, 2012

For parents and kids alike, summer is associated with freedom from the hectic school year schedule and with the chance to take a deep breath and relax for a few weeks. Bed times are later, house rules become more flexible, and playtime stretches out into the evening hours. This change, as well as the chance to slow down, are great for everyone’s psychological well-being. That being said, even in the summer, it is important for kids to maintain a routine. In fact, too much ‘relaxing’ isn’t healthy for kids or teens.

To begin, excess screen time (TV, computer, video games, phones), is no better for kids in the summer than it is during the school year. Your child may not have homework, but the opportunity to be active outside, spend time with friends, and take advantage of experiences that are unique to summer, will all be diminished by spending too much time engaged with a screen—whether at home or on the go. Therefore, the summertime rules for screen time should not be very different from the school-year rules. The maximum recommended total screen time should not be more than two hours a day for kids and teens, no matter what time of year it is!

Next, it can be easy to allow your child to have a later bedtime in the summer. The sun sets at a later time, and there is no school the next day (although some kids must get up for summer camp). While it is tempting to allow kids and teens to stay up as late as they choose and then sleep as late as they desire the next morning, this is not in their best interest.  In order to grow healthily, feel happy and behave well, kids and teens need a minimum of eight hours of sleep, and most need nine or ten hours. In addition, the eight hours of sleep that begin earlier in the night, are much better quality than when these hours begin later at night. Finally, when you allow kids—and especially teens—to create their own sleep schedule, they will often stay up well past midnight, and then sleep away a good part of the day. This is not a healthy way to spend the summer, and it becomes more difficult for them to adjust back to a school year routine. Therefore, while it is fine to allow some flexibility in your child or teen’s summer bedtime routine, it is important to enforce a reasonable bedtime, ensuring that your child gets enough, good quality sleep.

Finally, while it is important to slow down in the summer, kids and teens function much more healthily, and are less likely to get in trouble, when they have structured, supervised activity. For example, did you know that the rate of marijuana use amongst teens is much higher in the summer months than at any other time of the year? This is because in the summer so many more teens are allowed to spend every day, for weeks, with little to do and barely any supervision. Even younger kids with little structure are more likely to get into fights and become cranky and hard to manage because they are bored. So, while it may be summertime, parenting must still include organizing a regular schedule of activities for your child, and supervising older kids and teens to ensure that they are doing more than just hanging out and sleeping the summer away.

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It’s almost school time, but be in the moment right now!

Posted by Dr. Susan on August 4, 2011

As the stores begin stocking back-to-school clothing and notebooks, it’s hard not to start thinking about the end of summer. Before we know it, school will be back in swing, and the barefoot, carefree, sunny days will be long gone…sigh!

Of course, it is important to plan ahead in order to get school supplies at a great sale price! In addition, it’s important to help your child get accustomed to the idea that school, routines, hectic schedules and cooler weather, will all be here soon.

But…before boxing up the bathing suits and taking out the sweaters, let’s not rush into the fall and winter. It’s very important to teach kids the value of living in the moment and appreciating the experience at hand, before rushing ahead to the next thing. So, please, take the time to really enjoy the last weeks of summer together with your child. There are many different ways to live in the moment, right now. and here are just a few tips to help you do it:

  • Resist the urge to unpack and try fall clothing on your child before the first day of school. It may be convenient for you to see if your child has grown a size over the summer, but for kids, it’s a sign to move on to the next thing. Rather, wait until a week or so before school starts. This will give you and your child a little time to plan without rushing the summer along.
  • Limit school supply shopping with your child to one or two specific outings—don’t make it the focus of every day until school starts. If there’s a lot to get done, do some of it without your child so that she can continue to be in the summer mode.
  • Spend even less time than usual watching TV, or watch recorded shows so that you can fast forward through the commercials. TV ads for back-to-school products become overwhelmingly prolific in August. This advertising pressure can be stressful for you and your child, pushing you out of summer mode before you are ready.
  • Encourage your child to stay focused on the summer fun at hand by limiting conversations about school to once a day—at bedtime or first thing in the morning.
  • Regularly ask your child to name activities or experiences that she or he has enjoyed, or is looking forward to enjoying this summer. Discussing these will help you and your child stay focused on the summer “moment” in which you are still living.
  • When your child is in earshot, spend as little time as possible talking about back-to-school with other adults (in person or on the phone). Your child will pick up on the conversation and it will make it more difficult for him to focus on enjoying the rest of the summer.  
  • As the end of summer truly arrives (and teacher assignments arrive in the mail) plan one or two really fun summer activities. Even as you are preparing for the transition into school, remind your child that there are still days left of summer to appreciate; time to run through the sprinkler barefoot and eat that last piece of watermelon.

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A Teachable Moment: Summer Time Skills

Posted by Dr. Susan on July 4, 2011

I love the summer! No homework, no rushing around and everyone seems to be in a better mood. For me, the summer is one big, deep, cleansing breath that continues for two months! That being said, I don’t think kids quite get the idea that summer should represent a change of pace. They don’t bicker less with siblings, they don’t nag any less and they certainly don’t give you any more time alone in the bathroom!

However, the relaxed nature of the summer months and the reduced pressure on kids to perform academically and socially makes it the perfect time for you to teach your child the all importance ‘skills of summer’: patience and perseverance. In fact, these traits will take your child far in life and you can use summer activities to begin instilling them in your child, beginning as young as two or three years.

Building Sand Castles takes a great deal of patience, time and effort. Encourage your child to work on a castle, fort or tunnel for more than a few minutes. Show enthusiasm for your child’s sand creation and, if necessary, teach him some ways to build that he may not yet know. Sand castle building may seem trivial to you, but the time and effort required to be successful is no different from the energy you may exert on an important work project. Mastering the patience, focus and perseverance needed for this activity will benefit your child for years to come.

Learning to swim or mastering a swimming technique can be extremely challenging for any child. The fear of drowning is naturally a hurdle for any beginning swimmer, and may also impact upon a child who needs to master jumping or diving into the pool. For parents, helping a child overcome this fear can seem like a monumental task, especially when a child cries, tantrums or downright refuses to even try. In this situation, it is you that must be patient! Helping your child work through this significant fear is not just about swimming. It will teach her that she has the ability to persevere and achieve success even in those areas of life that may seem insurmountable.

Playing outside is the hallmark of summer as far as parents are concerned. We want our child to appreciate and savor every minute of the beautiful weather. However, perhaps you are one of the many parents met with arguments, by a child who would much rather spend the summer watching TV, or playing video games on the computer. When the nagging for screen time begins, please, please resist the urge to give in simply because it’s the path of least resistance. Encouraging your child to play, without having media as a crutch, will give your child the opportunity to temporarily inhabit a calmer, less frenetic world. He will develop the patience to tap into his inner creativity. She will learn how to persevere and become terrific at any number of skills—bike riding, searching for worms, swinging as high as possible or packing the perfect picnic lunch. And isn’t that what summer is all about!

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