Todays’ Family: Getting your kids off the couch

Who has started counting down the days until back to school? Are the kids starting to bounce off the walls yet, complaining about their boredom? I have mixed emotions about the summer months. I love the first week after school gets out and celebrate no alarms or schedules and eat ice cream for dinner. Then it sets in. Lazy, hazy days begin to turn into the crazy, dazey nights and the longing for routine and planned activities starts to creep in.

Don’t get me wrong. I love summer in general and I think overall, it’s my favorite season. Warm weather, easier workload, vacation, longer days, the beach and working from home in my flip-flops. By now I’ve learned to accept that my kids stay up into the wee hours and sleep until noon. I tried that myself for about a week and had to return to my mundane routine rather quickly. Despite acting like I was a teenager, my body said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Here are some suggestions for keeping summer (and your kids) alive.

Take on a volunteer gig. Not only does this look good on college applications, it’s a proven way of increasing empathy. There are many organizations that can use your time, expertise and physical power. Homeless shelters, animal shelters, food banks, and many charities and nonprofits like the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army rely on the work of volunteers to carry out their mission. Call local branches of these organizations to find out if teen volunteers are welcome in your area. Be really ambitious and start your own volunteer organization.

Always wanted to learn to paint or do standup comedy? Take a class at a local community center or community college or night school.

Start a business. What do your neighbors need help with, mowing the lawn, childcare, running errands, pet sitting, painting, cleaning out the basement or garage? The list is endless here. I remember my kids started P & S Child and Pet Care Services and started caring for one family's dog and then each of their three children for many years!

Join or start your own meetup. Have something to teach or share with others? Get a group of people together weekly.

Start a walking or jogging group.

Clean or redecorate your room. Making a transition from elementary to middle school or beginning high school or college is a perfect time to clean out old memories and make space for your new image. This activity alone could take up the whole summer break.

Arts and Crafts aren’t just for summer camp and preschoolers. DIY projects like sewing, embroidery, knitting, making your own CD’s, or greeting cards are fun to do as a family.

Start a gaming tournament or puzzle marathon.

Eat plenty of ice cream and take a break from scheduled meal times when possible. Let kids be in charge of meal planning and learning to cook. This will come in handy during the school year as well.

When all else fails, use your imagination, something that gets diminished from too much screen and downtime. If parents aren't careful, our children and especially our teens can waste an entire summer without learning or accomplishing a darn thing. Summer lethargy and brain drain will set in before you know it and can be very difficult to reverse.

Happy Summer.

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About Kim Engstrom

Kim Engstrom is a certified mental health counselor and mother of two located in Kennett Square. Online Counseling and Walk and Talk Therapy now available. For questions or more information on this topic visit www.KimEngstrom.com or Facebook at Kim Engstrom and KE Counseling Services. A complimentary 30-minute discovery call or in office meeting is available to all first-time clients to discuss your family goals.

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