Positive Activities for School Breaks

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December 23, 2009 by middleearthnj

The school bell rings and adolescents rejoice! Whether it’s Winter or Spring Break, teenagers are thrilled to have a little free time!

Not all parents rejoice, however. Working parents are concerned about unsupervised time. Parents in the home are dreading the constant requests to go places and do things, the fighting among siblings, or the whining about nothing to do or being bored.

Here are some tips on how you can make sure youth are using their free time constructively:

Give them some down time.  Let them sleep in a little bit later than the typical school morning if they can, but set a time for them to be up and doing “something.”  Most kids could use some rest from the stresses of school and the holiday season.  By helping your teen get some rest, you can help them improve their attitude. But be careful to set a healthy balance as too much rest can make them irritable.

Give them some chores to do over the course of the break or have them help with preparing for the holidays. They can help cook, decorate, wrap presents, shovel your driveway, etc.  Providing a list of chores to do while a parent is at work can help the teen be responsible and the parent can have more time to share with the teen after work.  Think of teenagers as adults in training – they need to learn how to do these tasks and realize that family members each contribute to the overall benefit of everyone. And be sure to show your appreciation for their help!

Share hobbies and household duties with them.  If you need to cook a meal or fix something on your car, have them help you.  This will allow you to spend time together and also teach them something practical, such as how to change a tire or prepare a meal for the family.  The most important thing here is to do it together!

Encourage them to catch up on their studies, if necessary.  Was there something they didn’t understand last semester?  Is there a book that they are supposed to read during break?  Or, is there a project coming up next semester that they can start now?  This may not be a favorite one for teens, but it can certainly pay off in the long run!

Allow them to have friends over to your house.  If possible, allow them to have some friends over or to spend the night when you are home to supervise their activities.  Most teenagers just enjoy spending time with their friends and many times don’t even need planned activities.

Invite your teenager to do things with you. Plan a family game night or movie night.  Eat together as a family at the table.  Set up holiday traditions (last week’s blog addressed this issue). Whatever it is that you enjoy, share that with your young folks.  And try doing something that they enjoy as well!  Expect (and allow) them to say no since they often want more independence. Consider allowing them to bring a friend to a family activity (which may make it more enticing for them to participate).

Suggest that they get out of the house. Tell your teen to organize an activity with friends. Help them with ideas such as going to a movie, bowling, skating, sleigh riding, out to lunch/dinner, etc.  Or, they can go to a Community Youth Center, such as the ones run by Middle Earth, which are perfect for ensuring youth are using their time constructively. Centers offer adolescents a safe and supervised environment where they can engage with their peers, obtain help with homework or employment searches, participate in fun group activities, and volunteer for community service opportunities. The centers offer access to activities that teens consider “cool” such as pool tables, computers, art supplies and field trips, so that the youth, especially latchkey children, choose positive alternatives to gangs, drugs and crime.  Middle Earth’s centers also teach basic life skills such as budgeting, cooking, and obtaining a driver’s license.

Look to the community for planned activities. Read the paper or go on the website for your church and/or town to see if there are any activities planned for youth.  There may be special events during the break or volunteer opportunities for your teen.

Parents should collaborate. Whether it’s having the kids over to your house or planning transportation to activities, parents are more effective together. If you take turns supervising and/or driving your adolescents, then all of the burden doesn’t fall on you.

Lay Down Expectations. If you are a parent, you need to do more than just find positive activities for your teen. Sit down and determine what the rules and curfews are for the school break. Write down your expectations for behavior. The limits you might want to consider are bedtimes, the amount of electronic media, and how often they can go out with friends. Then, sit down for a discussion with your teen. Be open to input from your children in determining where they can go, what time they need to be home, and how late they can stay up.  Remember that involving your son or daughter in establishing the rules and curfews will make it easier to enforce. And finally, remind your teens that trust is earned!

Relax, enjoy time with your teen and have a wonderful holiday!

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