11 Ways To Help Your Tween Have a Healthy and Happy Summer

Summer break is a time for making improvements, here's how to help your tween

Be sure your child wears protective clothing when outdoors.
Tweens should know how to dress for the weather and to protect themselves from insects and poison ivy. Hero Images/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Your tween is ready for summer break, and you probably are, too. A busy school year of activities, homework and responsibilities can make even the most serious of us dream of carefree summer days. If you hope your tween has the best summer vacation ever, you'll need to plan a little for the adventures to come. A fun summer can help your tween recover from the stress and anxiety of a hectic school year, and regain his or her footing emotionally for the year to come.

Plan the Best Summer for Your Tween

Here is a long list of ways you can make sure this summer gives your tween a chance to learn, laugh, and make memories that will last a lifetime, all while helping your child embrace healthy changes for the long term.

Establish a Plan of Action. If you have goals set, you're more likely to make them happen. Sit down with your tween and brainstorm goals for the summer months. Talk about books he or she might like to read, places you can go together as a family, and any other items you want on your wish list, such as becoming healthier or reducing stress or anxiety. Once you know what your child's goals and hopes are, take out a calendar and begin planning how you can make them happen. If your child wants to read 10 books this summer, plan trips to your local library and write them down on the calendar. If your child wants to visit relatives, figure out your available dates and begin making plans.

If your tween wants to embrace a healthier lifestyle, research exercise options and healthy menu planning. 

Stay Safe. The best way to ensure a great summer is to plan for a safe and healthy one. Your child is old enough now to know basic first aid practices, as well as what to do in an emergency situation.

You might consider first aid training offered at a local church, Y, or through the Red Cross. Your tween should also learn about summer safety tips — such as avoiding sunburn, drowning prevention, and what to do if he or she is caught in an unexpected thunderstorm. The more your tween knows about safety, and safety prevention, the less you and your tween will have to worry about how to handle the unexpected. Other ways your tween can stay safe this summer include:

  • Applying sunscreen regularly
  • Wearing a seat belt while in a car
  • Wearing a flotation device while on the water
  • Learning how to swim
  • Applying bug repellent when necessary
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Knowing the symptoms of heat exhaustion
  • Paying attention to curfew limitations
  • Keeping you informed about suspicious activity that he or she may witness
  • Taking a self-defense course
  • Alerting you to inappropriate online behavior
  • Limiting screen time and social media time 
  • Wearing protective clothing when possible (Such as when you're child is camping or exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time. Certain clothing can provide sun protection, and if you child will be outdoors long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats can protect your tween from mosquitoes and ticks.)
  • Wearing sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection — these are a must to help your tween protect his or her eyes from the damage that can be caused by the sun's rays. If you don't know what to buy, ask your child's pediatrician or eye doctor for recommendations. 
  • Washing produce thoroughly before eating

Change One Thing. The summer months are a great time to set a goal and achieve it. Change can be an exciting thing, and working towards something can be fun, too. Ask your tween to consider what he or she would like to change over the summer. Your tween might want to change his or her hair, lose weight, or embrace a nutritious and healthy eating plan. Whatever change your tween is considering, support your child and help him or her work towards the goal. 

Pick-Up Sports. When you were little you may remember neighborhood kids gathering together to play pick up soccer, tag football, softball, or basketball. Organized team sports have replaced those neighborhood games and now kids practice and play under the scrutiny of parents, coaches and refs. But organized sports aren't for every child, and some kids may prefer the atmosphere of kid-led competition. Encourage your tween to organize a pick up game in your neighborhood that allows the children to make and enforce the rules. They may even decide not to keep score. These games can be fun, and helps promote group exercise. Who knows, if the kids like it they may decide to make it a daily or weekly activity throughout the summer months.

Journal Your Summer Experiences. Help your tween keep his or her education moving along over the summer months. Encourage your tween to pick up school books from the previous year to stay on top of topics so that he or she doesn't forget all they've learned. You might also encourage your tween to journal during the summer months, writing down daily experiences, thoughts, goals or just doodling. Journaling is a great way to keep those summer experiences and memories forever, and will help your child develop reading and writing skills. Journaling can also help your child reduce stress and anxiety and vent frustrations, thus improving his or her emotional health. You might even consider buying a new journal for your child and giving it to him or her on the last day of school, to encourage summer writing and journaling. 

Make Time for Nothing. It's great to have plans for summer camp, trips, and other activities. But you'll also need to make sure your child has times when there is nothing going on. Lazy days give children the luxury of daydreaming, and discovery. If your tween has a few days to kick around, he may decide to explore outside, help you around the house, or pickup a book. Resist the temptation to over schedule your preteen, and let him learn how to entertain his or her self and enjoy their own company.

Start a New Hobby. The summer break is the ideal time for you and your child to try something new. Give your child the opportunity to discover a new hobby. A hobby doesn't have to be expensive, or require a lot of equipment. Your tween could spend time learning how to sketch, cook, or take pictures. If your child enjoys writing, encourage him or her to start a family blog, or blog about a topic that interests him or her. Other hobbies could include painting, rock collecting, thrifting at thrift and discount stores, bird watching, and following a sports team. Whatever hobby your tween chooses, be sure it helps your child learn how to relax and slow down. Benefits of a hobby can include helping your child boost self-confidence, finding new friends, and learning more about the world around him or her.

Give Back. If you want your child to get the most out of summer, giving back is one way to make it happen. Your tween will learn from helping others, and may even discover a philanthropic side to his or her personality that will last a lifetime. Ask your child if he or she would like to volunteer at the local library, help at an animal shelter, provide assistance to the elderly or join a community service organization. Opportunities will also be available at your church, schools, and maybe even your local YMCA.

Reconnect with Old Friends. A busy school year can leave you with virtually no time to connect with relatives and old friends. If your tween hasn't seen a good friend in a while, it might be time to get them back together. Allow your tween to plan a sleepover, or a day out with a classmate, old friend or a friend from the old neighborhood. Getting together with friends from school is also a good idea, especially with good school friends that you might not otherwise connect with over the summer.

Plan, Start and Finish a Project. Have you ever thought about building a tree house, or making a movie about your family's history? Your tween is old enough now to help you plan and execute a big project. Try to find a project that you both would enjoy and that you can do together. You might decide to paint your child's bedroom, build a fire pit or a backyard pond, or plant a vegetable garden. Have fun with your research and take your time to do it right. Your child will learn time management skills, and how to patiently work towards a goal. 

Pick a Theme. The fun thing about summer is that you can incorporate a little whimsy into an ordinary day. One way to do that is to have a "theme" day or week. Encourage your child to pick a theme that you embrace for a certain amount of time. Themes can be silly, such as a wacky-tacky day, or a bit more educational, such as a science themed week. Find activities, movies, food and places to visit that you can incorporate into the theme for fun and education.

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