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Schools out for summer; now what?


Exams are completed, graduations are coming to an end, and your children are now home for the summer. For nine months the home was yours, now your offspring and co. are invading your premises. It is a transition that comes every year, some parents dread it and others are like the father in the Staples back-to-school commercial from years ago: ‘It is the most wonderful time of the year!’

Children used to having their planners filled from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. now have about eight extra hours at their disposal and they aren’t 100 per cent sure of how to invest that time. School is out, now what do we do? All of us: children, students, and parents need ideas. As clinicians, we know this can be a trying time for a number of parents. It is a transition and all transitions have the potential for additional stress.

We all have the dreams of what we want to do this summer: weekends at the lake, time spent out in the sun, quality time together, and many other wholesome interactive activities. However, it can also be easy to slip into the pattern of hours in front of the TV, video games, and maybe a little physical activity, with the road of least resistance being frequently taken.

Making healthy decisions in how we spend our time can dramatically influence wellbeing. There was a study recently released by Statistics Canada that found that childhood obesity and being overweight is linked to low self-esteem. Interestingly these children were also more likely to not be physically active and to do poorly in school. This study also dispelled parental income as being a source of self-esteem. We love the fact that you can’t buy high self-esteem.

Now, we are not saying that all of our children are going to be obese because they play video games during summer. What I am saying is that, that path of least resistance, of playing video games and watching TV will influence development positively or negatively. So, here are some ideas of how to optimize you and your family’s summer, and build self-esteem along the way.

First, let us be discriminators of the television. According to tvturnoff.org, we spend, on average, 1023 hours watching television in a year. Watch TV and play video games for a maximum of two hours every day. That’s it. Maybe then we will only watch the shows we really want, and play our favourite video games and spend less time in front of the TV. We can live our dreams instead of watching people live theirs. Also, spread this time out rather that blocking it all together. Spreading this time over the day allows for calm down and active periods in between sedentary high stimulation digital time.

Second, be active. Go outside and play. Arrange sporting activities, go for a hike, ride your bike, take up fishing, spend time with others doing something active. Spend time in the sun, with others, and moving. Research shows that increased activity helps maintain healthy sleep and eating habits as well as promoting happiness and health.

Third, read a book. You now have ample time, maybe read that book that you wanted to read all year but weren’t able to during the school year. Maybe read the Twilight series and see what the hype is all about. Most of all, keep those brain cells growing. Few things can be more calming than laying in the sun and reading a good book.

Fourth, make sure that you have a night a week to spend with your family. Any night. Do something you have never done before. Go to a museum. Go bowling or mini golfing. Maybe bake a cake together. Go swimming. Play that board game that you got for Christmas and haven’t played since Boxing Day. Have a planned night each week where the family spends time together and does something enriching.

Most of all just enjoy the summer weather together. Yes, some will have to work, but it can still be done. Get out and be active, trade the T.V. for a book in the sun, and take a chance on new places or activities. Make your summer exciting and something your kids will remember.

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