Kids may get a break from school, but parenting is a 24/7 job

Finally, school is winding down and our beautiful Northwest summer is coming into focus. We’re almost there!

For kids, school can be exciting, stimulating, but also stressful. This is especially true in grades that have big bump-ups in demand — third grade, seventh grade, ninth grade, 11th grade, and freshman year in college. It’s a relief when these school years come to an end, but there are always new challenges ahead.

Summer vacation is a welcome relief to these stresses and strains, and an opportunity for kids to relax. Parents take a break from their school-year job of being the “homework police.” These days, school is demanding for parents, too. Parents are asked to be far more involved in homework than when I was a kid. It can seem like Mom and Dad are going back to school, too!

It’s a good time to reflect on how this school year went for the family. What were the highlights? In your role as a homework coach, what were the the challenges? What lessons did Mom and Dad learn? It’s a good time and consider what modifications and changes you might want to make for next year.

It’s also important to think about parenting in the coming summer months. Here are some points to consider.

Limit electronics. Sigh. I hope families take this seriously. I am increasingly concerned by the overconsumption of electronic distraction — social media, video games, constant texting to anyone and everyone — not to mention everything else that is electronic.

Remember moderation? If you let kids spend every waking minute in the electronic world, they will move there. You will never see them again. Have a dialogue with your children about what they want, then set limits that seem reasonable to you. It will be less than what they want. When you set a limit, stick to it! And just as importantly, trust, but verify.

Keep them busy. After the first week of doing nothing and enjoying every minute of it, kids will start to get bored, which can lead to trouble. Find activities for them that will keep them occupied — try sports camps, recreation department activities or volunteer work. It’s helpful to save money during the year for these summer activities.

Give them chores to do around the house, and make sure that they do them. It’s a good time for kids to work on household projects — like organizing their rooms.

Encourage older teens to work. I’m a big believer in the value of summer jobs for teenagers. I had summer jobs starting in the 11th grade and all through college. When they become of age, I insisted that our kids find jobs, too.

Parents can help this effort by using their contacts and connections to make it easier for teens with no job history to find a job. I knew the owner of our local coffee shop who agreed to hire my 17-year old daughter as a barista. She did such a great job that the owner hired her sister when she was a junior. It was a great experience for my daughters; they learned about the world of work at an early age.

Keep close tabs on your teenagers. We called my oldest daughter’s summer vacation her junior year “The Summer of Love.” She spent every minute with her boyfriend, and nickeled and dimed us into bankruptcy over her curfew. We learned the hard way that we need to keep a close eye on our teens during the summer months. The wide-open days can lead to all kinds of mischief. Know where they are, where they’re going, who they’re with and which adults are home. Kids like to wander from place to place. Somehow, they forget to use their cellphone to let you know where they are — despite the fact that you are paying for it.

Plan some summer fun for the family. My kids loved our family vacations to Cape Cod on the East Coast. They still want to come with us — but now they bring along their husbands and children.

Paul Schoenfeld is director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. His Family Talk Blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

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