Tweens have time on their hands. They want to hang out at the mall, at the park, or in someone’s basement. They drive you crazy, but along with that freedom, you need to know they’re safe.
“When I was a kid, my mother sent me out with a packed lunch in the morning and told me come back when the street lights came on,” says Donna S. of Etobicoke, Ontario, who admits she worries when her 10-year-old daughter, Rebecca, goes to play with friends. “Now we use cell phones and walkie-talkies so she can call home and give me updates.”
Rebecca doesn’t mind the monitoring because her mother explained it was for her benefit. “I like that Mommy knows where I am. It makes me feel safe, not like she’s spying on me.”
Keep them busy
Maybe you can avoid the dreaded ‘I’m bored’ syndrome this summer, by checking out your community’s organized activities. The Y and your community recreation department often offer great camps for all age groups and interests.
Open your home to your child’s friends. It’s easier to keep track of your children when they’re at home, and a great secondary benefit is that you’ll learn more about your child’s life by knowing his or her friends. You could always organize a backyard project and get your landscape looking great with the help of a low-cost crew.
Set a good example
Summer can be a great time to teach independence if you feel your kids are mature enough to handle a few hours alone. Leaving them for brief periods will help them move onto the next phase of their development.
When you go out, let your children know where you are going, how long you’ll be gone, and a number where they may reach you. Being alone in the house is part of growing up, and tweens need and want to have some home alone time. Teaching a child to be responsible alone is a big step for them.
Not all summer days are sunny and even with the best planning, kids will gravitate to the computer. Kids do wear parents down and you’ll probably let them while away a couple of hours in front of a computer. If you can, have the computer in a well-trafficked area of your home to avoid your child venturing to unsavoury sites.
Think of the Internet as the virtual wilderness you explored as a child. Yes, there are dangers, but you were well prepared by your parents before you went off with that packed lunch. Take some time to talk about what sites they like. If you allow them to have Facebook or MySpace accounts, ensure their settings are private and no location or birthdays are listed.
Create a camp
Organize a group of parents who can each take one week to be the camp counsellor. The group of kids get to go to the zoo, the library, museums or just play together under the supervision of that week’s ‘camp counsellor’. The only cost is a week of your summer. Teamwork by parents and some pre-planning just may make this an economical alternative to summer day camp.