Summer Tips for Teens

GlaxoSmithKline and the National Parent Teacher Association conducted a survey in late March, 2006, to determine the top summer health concerns parents have for their adolescents: Parents' Summer Health Concerns The parents rated a list of 10 health issues related to their young adolescent. Here is that list, along with the percentages of parents noting concern about those issues:

Knowing what to do in an unsafe situation: 77%
Understanding how to be safe online: 75%
Making healthy food choices: 71%
Getting a sunburn: 61%
Getting injured while playing sports: 56%
Getting bitten by a tick: 46%
Swimming or playing at a pool, lake, or beach not attended by a lifeguard: 46%
Getting stung by a bee or wasp: 44%
Suffering from heat/sun stroke or dehydration: 44%
Being exposed to an infectious disease: 42%
**Almost all parents -- 95% -- said they want their child to be active and fit over the summer.
**Nearly a quarter said their child doesn't get enough exercise over the summer.
**About half said their child spends too much time watching TV or playing video games.
**Other concerns: exposure to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, wearing inappropriate or revealing clothing, hanging out with friends parents don't approve of.

HOW DO I HAVE THE BEST SUMMER POSSIBLE?

o Before summer begins, remind your children about safety in talking to strangers and adults that are not well known to them. "Stranger Danger" should be discussed throughout childhood AND adolescence. The facts: 1 in 5 girls will be molested before their 18th birthday, 1 in 6 boys. 90% of all sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Discuss safety issues with your adolescent throughout the year so they know how to protect themselves in any situation!

o KNOW THE WHO, WHAT AND WHERE your adolescent has been on the internet! There are many programs you can buy that track virtually everything your adolescent does online. Especially if they are at home alone for some periods during the day, it is better to be safe than sorry. You are not intruding on their privacy...you are keeping them safe. Keep in mind that 1 in 5 adolescents have been sexually propositioned on the internet. Discuss internet limits and boundaries with your teen before summer begins, so you both start off on the same page.

o Often, adolescents will eat when they are bored, especially in the summertime. Keep healthy food choices at home, so your adolescent is less inclined to graze on junk food.

o Discuss ground rules at the beginning of the summer regarding what is appropriate for activities and what is expected of your adolescent. If they know ahead of time what the limits, boundaries and expectations are, there is typically less opportunity for problems as the summer goes on. It may be beneficial to have family meetings throughout the summer to stay in touch and discuss any issues that come up. Family meetings are not a time for discipline or punishment. They should be viewed as an open forum for everyone to discuss and be heard. Often during the summer, they can be a great way to connect with the family and "check in." Many families often do activities as a family after meetings to spend family time and keep in contact.

o Know who your adolescent's friends are! If you do not like someone whom they are hanging out with, get to know them. If you still don't approve, tell your adolescent and be up front about your concerns. As a parent, you CAN forbid your adolescent from hanging out with someone you don't approve of. Yes, it may cause an argument and be uncomfortable, but trust your gut instinct.....it could stave off many problems in the future.

o If you have a concern that your adolescent may be using alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, ask them. Be up front and let them know your concerns. If they are not open and honest with you, they will know that you are "on" to them and most often sooner rather than later, you will find out the answer. Again, discuss rules and boundaries with your adolescent before summer starts. Let them know what the consequences will be for serious problems.

o Be very specific about what kind, style and type of clothing you approve of for your adolescent. As a parent, you DO have the right to throw something away that you disapprove of, even if you didn't buy it!

o Have a rule that your adolescent checks in with you whenever the change locations when they are out with their friends. This way, you will know where they are at, who they are with and have more peace of mind.

Tammy Daniele, LCSW, received her Master's degree from George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. Tammy helped develop and create the Early Emotional Development Program at Washington University School of Medicine. Past clinical experience includes work with depression, eating disorders, self-injury, anxiety, adjustment disorder, grief work, trauma and divorce issues. Tammy has worked extensively with the court systems in dealing with the emotional impact of divorce. She has provided expert witness testimony in divorce and child abuse/neglect cases. In addition, she has facilitated reunification of parent/child relationships after divorce. Tammy has a certification in divorce mediation from Northwestern University and provides mediation services pre and post-decree. Tammy practices Collaborative Law as a divorce coach and child specialist. Tammy is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the Mediation Council of Illinois and the Association for Conflict Resolution.

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