By Ashley Manship, MSW, LCSW, Youth First, Inc.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle staying in a routine and making summertime with my kids as meaningful as it can be. Join me this summer in planning while also not being afraid to be a “spur of the moment” parent!  Here are just a few ideas you can use to plan out a summer of fun in advance.

1.     Create a monthly calendar for your summer schedule. Put it on the fridge or somewhere visible, listing all the activities scheduled for each month. Kids can see what is coming up and feel a sense of order.

2.     Stick to a daily routine during summer break. Kids crave parameters. The great thing is if you go off schedule occasionally, it’s okay because it’s summer break! Many kids love spontaneity and fun, so if you decide to have a beach day instead of the scheduled “clean your room day,” they will roll with it.

3.     Establish summertime chores and responsibilities. Agreeing on daily chores during the summer can help children foster a sense of responsibility. This can be part of their morning routine. Create tasks that are age appropriate and explain to kids that they earn their screen time, ice cream, or other rewards by completing chores accurately and without complaint.

4.     Give each day of the week a theme. “Movie Monday” or “Whacky Wednesday” are great ways to give the kids something to look forward to! Enroll kids in summer camps when available. This is a great way to break up a long summer.

5.     Go outside and play. Having some scheduled daily outdoor time is a great way to get some Vitamin D for their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Don’t forget to help your children apply sunscreen for outdoor fun!

6.     Manage screen time with screen slips. It’s easy for kids to waste summer away staring at screens. Screens are addictive and kids cannot monitor their screen usage themselves. Screen slips can help motivate kids to accomplish important tasks each day before they log on to an iPad or watch TV.

7.     Keep a summer adventure bag in the car. Pack a bag with stuff you will need for an impromptu adventure. Sunscreen, bug spray, towels, hats, extra clothes, etc., are essential items that won’t leave you scrambling to prep things for every outing.

Summer can often feel as if it’s over in the blink of an eye for both students and parents. Use these tips to make the most of summer break, maximize additional family time, and create long lasting memories with your kids.

By Kelsey Crago, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

During adolescence, it’s normal for your child to want more independence, test boundaries, and make decisions you don’t understand. According to Stanford Medicine, it’s developmentally appropriate for a teenager’s focus to shift from family relationships to peer relationships. When you combine this change in priorities with the myriad of physical and emotional changes during the teen years, it’s easy to feel lost, like you don’t even know your child anymore.

Your relationship with your child will look different during each stage of their life, from infancy to adulthood. As your child’s needs change, it can be beneficial to take steps to refresh your relationship. Let’s look at some strategies to help maintain a healthy relationship with your teen.

1. Spend time together. Positive parent relationships are important for healthy development. Prioritize spending time with your teen. If you have tried and they

don’t seem interested, consider letting them choose what you do together. Let your teen teach you about their interests.

2. Model healthy behaviors. Modeling remains an effective form of education into the teen and adult years. Let your teen see you taking steps to manage your physical health, mental health, and day-to-day responsibilities. Show accountability for missteps along the way.

3. Encourage independence. Empower your child to make their own decisions – what to wear, which elective classes to take, and which extracurricular activities to participate in. Your teen is working to develop a sense of identity. Allowing them to make decisions (with guidance) helps them develop positive self-esteem, judgment and problem-solving skills.

4. Set boundaries with your teen. Although you have a young adult in the house, you are still the main adult. Teens thrive when given structure and boundaries, even if they grumble about it along the way. Allow space for autonomy and choice, but know you provide the ultimate say in situations.

5. Show that you care. With limited time together, it’s easy to get right to the business of grades, chores, and responsibilities with your teen. Take time to focus on the positive, too. Try small acts like leaving a note in their lunchbox or on their mirror, sending a text to ask how their big test went, or verbally expressing how much they mean to you. A few words go a long way!

6. Keep communication open. Check in with your teen to see how they are doing and really listen. It’s tempting to dive into advice giving, correction, or discipline mode, but try just being there as a listening ear. Teens are more likely to come to you in times of need when they know you’ll listen and not just lecture.

Parenting a teen is no easy task – neither is being a teen. A healthy relationship takes time and effort. These quick, easy methods support a positive relationship and healthy adolescent brain development. Show your teen you care and don’t hesitate to reach out to your Youth First Social Worker for support.

By Alicia Slaton, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

In today’s fast-paced world, it is easy for parents to get caught up in work, household chores, and other responsibilities, leaving little time for children to play. However, research has shown that play is an essential part of a child’s development and parents need to make time for it.

Play is not just about having fun; it is also about learning and development. Through play, children develop their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills. They learn problem-solving, creativity, and imagination. They also develop their language, communication, and social skills as they interact with others.

Unfortunately, many parents today are so busy that they do not prioritize playtime for their children. They may feel guilty for not spending enough time with their kids but fail to realize that playtime is just as important as any other activity. In fact, it should be an essential part of every child’s daily routine.

Parents need to understand that playtime does not have to be elaborate or expensive. It can be as simple as playing in the park, building blocks at home, or even reading a story together. The key is to set aside time for it and make it a priority.

One way to make time for play is to schedule it into the day. Just as parents schedule time for work and other activities, they should also schedule time for play. This could be as little as 20 minutes a day or as much as an hour, depending on the child’s age and interests.

Another way to make time for play is to involve the whole family and make it a family activity. This not only strengthens the bond between parent and child but also provides an opportunity for children to learn from their parents and develop new skills.

Parents should also encourage unstructured playtime, where children are free to explore and create on their own. This type of play promotes creativity and imagination, which are essential for a child’s development.

Finally, parents should limit screen time and encourage outdoor play. It is easy for children to get caught up in technology, but it is essential for them to spend time outdoors and engage in physical activities. Outdoor play promotes physical fitness and helps children develop gross motor skills.

In conclusion, play is an essential part of a child’s development. By scheduling playtime, involving the whole family, encouraging unstructured play, and limiting screen time, parents can ensure that their children can learn, grow, and have fun. So, let’s make playtime a priority, and give our children the gift of play!