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By - Zonya Foco, RD, CSP, CHFI
How many parents out there are relieved that the early morning rush to school, followed by the nightly homework struggle is done for a while? Only to realize in just a few short weeks that kids are filling their time with way too many hours of “screen time” (that’s TV, computer, games and all hand held devices combined), and saying “I’m bored!” And so the new summer stress ensues!
So, to help you raise healthy, well-balanced children in both mind & body, here are five “Frazzle-Free Sure-Fire Solutions” for helping your kids continue to grow and mature over the summer months.
Starting day one of vacation (or soon thereafter), establish their summer morning routine of “KR’s” (Key Responsibilities). List on the bathroom mirror what MUST be done every morning BEFORE any screen gets turned on. Go beyond the usual brush teeth, get dressed, make bed, eat breakfast, and house chores. Also add things like these:
What? REQUIRE them to stimulate their brain and body in traditional ways BEFORE plugging into brain-numbing technology? Yes! Doing this not only gives them needed routine and successfully decreases the total number of screen hours in a day, but most importantly lets them “feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment” both physically and mentally, before the (often) mind-numbing engagement with the screen.
As soon as your kids are old enough to “grab their own snacks,” teach them to include a fruit or vegetable each time. Because, ask any kid, a granola bar and a box of crackers makes a fine snack. NOT! A granola bar and some carrots, or a granola bar and an apple makes a fine snack. In fact, adding the fruit or vegetable makes it so much easier to NOT eat the whole box of crackers. Funny how that is! And if you are including a fruit and/or vegetable every time you eat...guess what? You are automatically consuming the amount of fruit and vegetables that every health organization recommends! 5-13 a day!
Post on the refrigerator a chore list that is expected daily of each child. Include thorough descriptions so they are done as complete as you wish. Establish weekly “allowance” and remember to pay it. Determine with your kids a reasonable deadline to get the chores done each day, and follow through with a consequence if they are not complete. Hint: banning screen time for 24 hours works like magic!
How about nudging out boredom with opportunities for your kids to gain practice and confidence in becoming “employable?” The bonus is that you get some great work done around the house!
In addition to expected daily chores, also post a “jobs for hire” list. Yes, put those jobs on your wall that you would love to have done, along with how much you are willing to pay for it. (Of course, make them age appropriate, and post the age requirements for each). Include how the job is to be done (like an official job description), with what kind of attitude, about how long it should take, and how much it will be paid. Include the requirement that payment will follow a passed “inspection.“ Don’t worry if kids don’t jump on the job right away. After a few weeks of “being off“ school, that novelty will wear off and ideas about what they can do with the added money are bound to take on new desire. Job ideas could include (if these aren’t already chores):
Financial advisors always say to teach kids the discipline of saving money the minute they start getting money. If your child is allowed to spend 100% of all they are given, they risk becoming young adults who do exactly that. Consider the policy of giving 10% to church or charity, depositing half of what’s left in the bank for a car (they’re so gonna want that when they turn 16!) or college, and putting the rest in their wallet to either spend now, or put toward something bigger that they really want. This teaches kids to be givers, savers and enjoyers of money, but all in a balanced way. These principles ingrained as a child last a lifetime!