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Activities for Summer Vacation

How To Get Your Teen Off The Couch This Summer

"Turn off that TV!"

Sound familiar? What can parents do when their teenager sleeps until noon and then rises only to turn on the tube and lie around on the couch all day? Research indicates that activity levels decline at a steady rate as children move into their adolescent years. According to the Surgeon General's report on physical education and fitness, nearly half of American youths aged 12 to 21 are not vigorously active on a regular basis, and 14 percent report no recent physical activity at all.

"I like to go camping, let them garden," says Elizabeth Ferree of Yuma, Ariz. Or as an alternative, "Tell them you'll assign chores," she says. "This will normally have them out the door and running."

Many parents agree that as their children get older, they seem to spend less time doing physical activities. Margaret Helmstetter, a mom from Sierra Vista, Ariz., has allowed her two children only limited time in front of the television. Her son is now 16, and her daughter is grown. "TV in our house is a once-a-week thing," she says. "Once a week is family movie night."

Things to Do with Your Teen

  • Plan a baseball game at a local park. Invite his friends.
  • Join an exercise class together.
  • Plan a nightly jog through the neighborhood.
  • Invite friends over for a weekly car wash. Bribe them with food!
  • Go golfing or play a game of one-on-one basketball.
  • Clean out the garage and have a sale.
  • On a rainy day, play a board game.
  • Learn a new language together.
  • Take an art class.
  • Join a book club.
  • Plant a new garden in the backyard.

Virginia Hydo, a school teacher in Suwanee, Ga., shares a little of what she overheard a teenage student say recently about spring break: "The student was overheard to say: 'I made plans to go somewhere with my friends; then my parents made plans to go to a condo in Florida. I wish I was going with them. It sounds like they are going to have fun.'"

Hydo believes that even though many teens strive to be independent, they still want boundaries; they do want their parents available.

"Parent and child can learn a new craft, learn a new sport, be a visitor/sightseer in your own home state," Hydo says. "If you don't know, find out one thing that they always wanted to do/learn and see if you can possibly do it with them."

Parents have to remember that during the adolescent years, teens often prefer to interact and socialize with their peers. Though it is important to continue to plan activities to do together as a family, it is a good idea to keep their social needs in mind when planning an excursion. Invite a friend to come along on a family hike, or pack a lunch for them and send them on their way.

Let's Get Physical

Even though teenagers enjoy being with their friends, they are usually receptive if you, as a parent, come up with an activity you both can do. Something as boring as washing the car can be a great way to get moving and be together. Turn the radio on and make it fun. Next time it won't be so hard to get him motivated to help out.

Encouraging your teen to pursue physical activities this summer will benefit her in many ways. Participating in outside activities can have social and health benefits. Research from Niagara Heart Health in Ontario, Canada, taken from the Physical Activity Promotion Program for the city of Hamilton, Ontario, indicates that teens who pursue physical activities with their family are less likely to demonstrate behaviors such as skipping school, smoking, alcohol, drug abuse and other forms of antisocial behavior.

Getting your kids interested in something new this summer would be a great way to motivate them to move. Research has shown that adolescent girls are the least active of all boys and girls from 5 to 17 years old. If your daughter is not interested in sports, then offer some new ideas. Encourage physical exercise, such as walking or jogging at least three times a week – and get out there and join her!

Give a Little

"Our family is very big on volunteering," says Betty Winslow from Bowling Green, Ohio. "My older daughter worked in our church nursery for years. My sons have both done paintings on windows for the art club. The boys have also participated in Red Cross blood drives, and three of the four kids have gone on mission trips with our church to do painting, cleaning and other scutwork for organizations that cannot afford to pay for help."

To find places where your teenager can spend some time helping out, check out Volunteer Match. By simply putting in your zip code, you will bring up many organizations in need of assistance.

"There is a certain kind of character building that happens only when we give of ourselves with no expectation of a financial reward," says Marilyn Brenden, a former junior high school teacher from Silverton, Ore. "I ran a homeless shelter after I left teaching. Young people could be helpful in many ways volunteering with the homeless. For example, they could read to the children, serve as extra chaperones on summer outings to the park. They could help with things like answering the telephone, sorting donations of clothing and food, writing handwritten thank you notes or helping with craft activities with the children."

Visit America's Promise online and see what General Colin Powell is saying to our youth. He is challenging them to help other young people live full and promising lives. It is a wonderful organization that has links to various groups with which teenagers can become involved. Youth organizations such as Boy Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 4-H Clubs and others are always involved in special events throughout the summer that will keep your teenager physically active and help him be an asset to his community.

"Get them involved in some kind of organized youth activity," says Barb Huff, a child advocate from New Philadelphia, Ohio. "This way they are actively involved in something that is making them a better person, introducing them to life skills and the idea of being an integral part of a community and surrounding them with a positive peer group."

Whatever your teenager does this summer, make sure he or she is aware of all of the options. And if need be, put limits on the television time. Force him to look at the other great things he can get involved with over the vacation.

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