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Stephanie Hill: Take the boredom out of summer break

Jun. 11, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

Now that the newness of summer vacation is well over, many kids may already be voicing that dreaded complaint designed to drive all parents mad: "I'm bored."

My mom taught my siblings and me how to deal with the "I'm-bored-mentality." Mom's classic response, "I can find something for you do," was sure to send the four of us scattering to the far corners of our back yard. Mom had already mastered creating a daily list of tasks for each of us to complete even before we reached double-digit age.

Mom was wise when it came to kids and summer. We learned as teenagers that sleeping in meant no later than 10 a.m., except for rare occasions -- you know, like when one of us had a 105-degree temperature, and had spent the night throwing up. Otherwise, we were free to stay up as late as we wanted, but we were still expected to be up by 10 a.m. Eventually, we learned that staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning, while novel, was not necessarily worth it when she opened the door at 10 a.m. with a list of chores for the day.

Even once Mom and Dad were both leaving us during the day, one of them would dutifully call the house between 10-10:30 a.m. to make sure we were all up and completing our chores. Heaven help us, if one of us (usually me) procrastinated doing our chores until right before we thought Mom would return, and she arrived before our chores were complete! I am sure if you look closely, my ears bear the scars from the repeated damage they received as a direct result of the tongue-lashings I endured for putting my chores off until the last minute! Despite the brutality I underwent -- just kidding! What I meant to write was, Mom taught us to find ways to entertain ourselves, without TV, so that we were not "bored," or at least did not say that we were.

I say all of this in good-natured fun to encourage parents reading this article to remember, "You are the parent." Which translates to, "You are the boss." Furthermore, I challenge you to remember that you set the tone for all endeavors. If you are positive and supportive about certain events, your child will usually follow suit. Likewise, if you are negative, whiny or cross, then your child will most likely respond in the same manner. Therefore, I encourage parents to think about establishing plans that are constructive and offset the "I'm-bored-with-summer-blues."

Whether your child is in daycare, at a baby-sitter's house or at home with you, establishing routine, structure and boundaries will prevent problems. My mom's setting limits on how late the four of us kids were allowed to sleep, for example, prevented our sleep cycle from becoming completely disrupted and flipped from the school year. Our daily to-do list provided a certain amount of structure. Once our chores were complete, the rest of the day was ours to define. If we did not complete our assignments, she followed through consistently with consequences, such as an earlier wake-up call, or reduction of TV or phone privileges. Additionally, Mom limited TV during the daytime hours and encouraged us to be outside as much as possible. Even if it were raining, she would send us to the covered porch to play cards or board games while we listened to our music.

Another tip I learned from both of my parents was to use summer to read. Mom and Dad were both ardent readers-still are. They took us to the library, or, the book mobile visited our street. They both continued their education, so summer meant they were frequently studying. While we kids usually did not have a summer assignment, we understood we needed to read s just like Mom and Dad.

Speaking of reading and summer assignments, depending upon where your child goes to school, he or she may have a summer assignment. These activities vary greatly from school to school and from one grade-level to the next; however, as a teacher, as well as a parent, I strongly encourage parents to not allow your child to put off this assignment until the last minute. Procrastination defeats the purpose of summer reading/work assignments. Why? Ideally, the assignment has been created to prevent the summer-learning drop-off that occurs when school is out for a couple of months. Students who complete their work over several weeks during the summer prevent learning loss while maintaining the skill level they worked so hard to acquire by the end of the school year.

If you need specific ideas of what exactly to do with your child, there are a plethora of ideas a finger-click away. Age-appropriate ideas for the summer are easily accessible on the Internet. Furthermore, this newspaper prints camps, activities and ideas that can be found throughout the Tri-State Area. Local libraries are another great resource for finding a slew of enrichment ideas for children of all ages.

Remember, you are the parent; you are the boss. You do not have to allow your child to whine, "I'm bored." There are plenty of ways to combat this mentality. All it takes is a bit of creative thinking, consistent structure, limitations and follow-through. If you parent correctly, your children will return to school with their sleep schedule intact, their work-habits maintained, and maybe even having learned a thing or two. They are your kids, and you have the ability to parent well, even during the summer months!

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net.

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