Schools out, there is no more homework to nag about, no more schlepping to sporting events, rehearsals or class gatherings. It's summer vacation time.
Now what? Will we send the kids to camp? How will we fill their time or, more importantly, how will we teach them to fill their time? My friend, Tom Nolan, the Dean of Students at Crossroads School, believes in keeping kids Broke, Busy and Bushed.
BROKE - Nothing spells trouble like a kid with cash on his hands and nothing to do. Bored money gets spent on all kinds of stupid things -- most of them unnecessary and, sometimes, dangerous. Kids with cash tend to think they're being adults by gambling, buying drugs or flashing their wad around -- none of which is behavior that any sane parent wants to see -- so, being stingy with a buck is not only a good way to maintain close proximity with your child, it also gives us the opportunity to discuss spending and teach them the value of a dollar. As the expression goes, "If you want to recapture your youth, just cut off his allowance." (Al Bernstein).
BUSY - The couch is no place for a kid in the summertime. There's plenty to do in the world, even if it means you have to drop them at the park, drive them to the beach or take them to the market with you. Experience has taught me that once I got myself and my kids moving we were all a lot better for the experience -- whether it was taking a hike, going whale watching (at 6 a.m.) or helping a friend with a construction project. Wash a car. Bathe the dog. Play in the sprinklers (I don't think there's a video version of that yet). Life offers plenty of opportunities -- don't be convinced otherwise.
BUSHED - Of course, all of that activity hopefully leads to having a tired kid, and nothing is sweeter than the end of a summer day when energy ebbs and everyone relaxes.
As the parent of a couple of pre-teen kids, I once attended a rock concert with a friend. The show was really cooking, and as the band rocked on I noticed a particularly active 15-year-old girl dancing a few rows in front of us. I knew I had reached the tipping point when I leaned over to my pal and said "She's gonna sleep really well tonight."
Let them tire themselves out. Summer is a time when many of have our first "independent" experiences -- like staying out till sundown, going to pool parties, sleep-overs or taking the bus to the beach (with friends). It's a time of growth. Your kid has just completed a year of school, they are moving forward and that means they're feeling older and more mature. As parents, we have to remember to give them a little extra freedom (if they've earned it) so that they can have these special and unique experiences.
With today's technology, it's easy for us to stay in touch. JoAnn and I had a rule that was about "checking in." Our kids were instructed to text us when they were leaving one location and arriving at the next. In this way, we felt comfortable with their mobility and they complied in order to be allowed greater independence. This was a win-win for everyone -- and it was something that didn't require a lot of effort, didn't embarrass the kids by being intrusive (they can text faster than the speed of light) and offered all of us peace of mind.
Keep 'em Broke Busy and Bushed and everyone will have a GREAT summer.