By Cammie Jones
Summer is halfway over and after the first couple weeks of laziness, it was time to get my kids motivated. As a mother of three girls ages 9, 13 and 15, we spend a lot of time driving kids around to various activities, many of them overlapping in the summer. Sleeping until 11 a.m. is not unusual for the teenagers and staying up late at night is a norm for all three. Sorry, I think I tend to play the lazy mom card with the 9-year-old when it comes to bedtime during the summer. Let’s be honest, I am tired. However, I do attempt to insist that we eat right and get our daily exercise. How much I can make them do this is somewhat out of my control, but I do my best. I did a little research on webmd.com regarding ways to attempt to get my kids off their duff and out the door to add more daily exercise to their summer schedule.
1. Think outside the box.
Not all kids are team sport players and due to our hot summer weather, most of my kids’ team sports are played during the school year. Summer is a great time to look for activities that may be indoors—a gymnastics camp, a cheerleading camp, dancing, martial arts—that your child may be interested in. If your teenager is going to the pool, suggest they don the goggles and swim a few laps before their friends get there.
You may have a trampoline in your backyard—send them outside and tell them they can’t come back in until they have jumped for 30 minutes. They want to go to a friend’s house and need a ride—if it’s safe and close enough, tell them to walk. You have a dog that needs walking—send your child!
2. Make it a “friend” thing.
My teens are truly only happy when they are with their friends. Or, at least they smile more! Use that to your advantage. Sign your child up for a fitness class or tennis clinic with a friend. Have your child and a friend or two start walking each morning or afternoon before or after dinner when it is cooler outside. Take them to the Augusta Canal with their bikes for an afternoon ride.
3. Screen time restrictions.
I’m always amazed how quickly my kids can get engrossed in a television program or app on their phones. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should get no more than one to two hours of screen time a day. This includes television, Internet or playing video games. The same goes with teenagers and their phones. Set time limits as to when they can watch TV, play video games or have their electronic devices. Take all electronic devices away at a certain time and tell them they must do something constructive during this time, and this does not include sleeping!
Lead by example.
As a parent, we know this is important. Don’t make a big deal of it. Just do it. My husband and I try to stay active—either running, going to an exercise class at the local gym, playing golf or walking the dog. It is truly part of our daily routine. You don’t have to talk about it but when it comes up in conversation with your children, remind them of why you do it. You can say it’s to stay healthy so you can better take care of them, it makes you feel better, keeps you fit, etc. Soon it will sink in and, hopefully, they will want to join you or start an exercise routine of their own.
5. Keep it positive.
If your child takes the dog for a walk, praise him. They go for a walk with friends, ask them how it was and how they felt after. She decides to run in a local race for the first time, cheer her on. Tell them again the importance of staying fit for their health, wellbeing and mood.
“Make sure to acknowledge the effort—choosing to be active or improving a skill—rather than the outcome to help your child’s confidence,” says Eric Small, MD, a specialist in pediatric/adolescent sports medicine and author of Kids & Sports.
6. Establish a regular routine.
Make exercise part of your regular schedule. On Tuesday mornings, for example, one child is responsible for walking the dog. On Wednesday, the task may go to another child. Or each day, during the screen-time hiatus, everyone goes outside for 30 minutes of physical activity.
It is crucial that you don’t make this a negative requirement. Don’t nag your child or make this something that they will come to hate, especially with those oversensitive teens. Try to keep it light and fun and stress the importance of your child’s overall health. They might just find they are enjoying the benefits of daily exercise even if they would never admit it to you.
Cammie Jones is an Augusta freelance writer and mother of three.
This article appears in the July 2016 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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