playing in dirt2There’s a piece of me that continues to be jealous of my teenagers’ summer break. We have embarked upon our third week of summer, and the idealistic images I had of what their summers days would include while I’m at work have already dissipated.

My rough survey of a few teens in my children’s “circle” led me to these top three “activities” on their daily to-do list:

  • They want to sleep – a LOT. Apparently waking up at noon is commonplace.
  • They must be able to binge on Netflix or video games for a minimum of three hours.
  • They worked at school all year and they don’t want to do more work around the house. Remember, they need to rest.

Instilling in my own children a sense of responsibility for themselves, for our home, and for our neighborhood is one of my top priorities as a parent. To help them add a little more structure their days off, I plan to help them create a personal daily schedule where they have freedom in their amount of “down” time but where they also have to be accountable to themselves and others. This is important in helping them grow into responsible adults.

Here are some ideas for your child’s summer vacation “responsibility” checklist:

  • Complete one task that helps family or another person. If it’s reorganizing the silverware or just hanging up those wet towels on the floor, a daily task will give them a sense of accomplishment – which is critical in the developing brain of a child.
  • Grow your child’s learning brain. Activities could include reading, playing a board game, or researching something that they’re interested in. Many school districts have resources on their websites linking parents and students to educational activities. The local public libraries also have many ideas and events for kids throughout the summer to stay engaged in learning.
  • Stay safe. Remind teen drivers to wear their seat belts and to put down their phones while driving, and remind younger children to look both ways before crossing busy roads.
  • Be active. Physical activity is important every day. Ride bikes, take a short walk, go to the local park, or even do stretches inside.
  • Remember healthy habits. Encourage children to eat healthy snacks, drink water regularly, brush their teeth twice a day, wear sunscreen, and get plenty of sleep.

Summer vacation can be a fun break from the responsibilities of the classroom, but as parents we must remember to continue to hold our kids accountable. Thoughtful acts of kindness, continued learning, and healthy habits are just a few examples of how I plan to help my teens stay active and safe this summer. What are your ideas?