Tag Archive for activities

A Teen Epidemic & Containment

The epidemic of depression and suicide is spreading among our teens (13-18-years-old) like wildfire, especially among girls. Consider these statistics:

  • Suicide rate has increased 31% from 2010 to 2015 among teens. Even more disturbing, the suicide rate has increased 65% among adolescent girls over the same time period!
  • Symptoms of depression have increased 58% among girls from 2010 to 2015 (Excessive Screen Time Linked to Suicide Risk).

In searching for potential causes of this rapid increase in depression and suicidal rates among teens, researchers realized that cell phone ownership increased dramatically over the same time period. In 2012, about half of Americans owned a cell phone. By 2015, only 3 years later, 92% of teens and young adults owned one.  This does not mean that cell phones cause depression, but an association between does exist between the two. Interestingly, this same research does not reveal a link between homework load, academic pressure, or financial problems and the rapid rise in depression and suicidal rates among teens even though it looked for such links (The Risk of Teen Depression and Suicide is Linked to Smartphone Use, Study Says). On the other hand, the study did reveal that:

  • 13-18-year-olds who spend 3 or more hours a day on electronic devices are 35% more likely to exhibit a risk factor for suicide than those who spend only an hour or less on electronic devices,
  • 13-18-year-olds who spend 5 hours or more a day on electronic devices are 71% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend only an hour on electronic devices.  
  • 48% of teens who spent 5 hours or more per day on electronic devices reported suicide-related behaviors compared to only 28% of teens who spent an hour or less on electronic devices. (OPEN LETTER FROM JANA PARTNERS AND CALSTRS TO APPLE INC.).

Fortunately, recognizing the link between electronic devices and depression and suicide offers us a way to contain the epidemic of depression and suicide rates among teens…not a complete cure, but a way to reduce the spread of an epidemic robbing us of our teens.  With that in mind, I offer four suggestions.

  1. Limit screen time to 2 hours per day or less. Our teens have not developed the skills to manage the addictive nature of electronic devices. (Perhaps many of us as adults have not developed those skills yet either.) Limiting screen-time to 2 hours per day keeps a teen in the area NOT associated with an increase in depressive symptoms or suicidal behaviors. This may involve teaching our teens to limit time spent on social media, turn off alerts, not spend down-time watching videos, limit video game time, and check social media less often. (For more, consider The Burden of a Smartphone.)
  2. Model limited use of electronic devices. We can’t expect our teens to use their devices less when they see us, their parents, wrapped up in our phones and devices. I thought I would never use electronic devices for 3 hours in a day. Surely, I was in the “safe zone.” Then Apple put “Screen Time” in the phone settings and my time usage started popping up. I discovered that I can easily average 3-4 hours per day on my smartphone! Clearly, I have to learn how to limit my time on the phone in order to model a healthy use of electronic devices to the children in my life. Do you?
  3. Encourage non-screen activities like sports, outdoor play and exercise, face-to-face interactions, church, non-screen hobbies, and family games. Teach your teens to have fun without screens. Let them learn by experience that face-to-face interactions are more enjoyable than social media, “real-life games” are more enjoyable than “virtual games,” and hands-on hobbies more enjoyable than screen-time games.
  4. Take a vacation from electronic devices. A study from UCLA noted that after only 5 days of a “device-free outdoor camp,” children performed better on tests for empathy than did a control group.  Another study showed that a month without Facebook led to greater happiness.  Take a vacation. Do it as a family and invest time previously spent on devices engaging in “real-time” interaction with one another and “real-life” experiences. (For more ideas, check out Don’t Let Them Take Over.)

We all have work to do in balancing our lives in a world where electronic devices impinge more and more on our daily lives. But the work we do to limit electronic devices in our lives and the lives our family members,’ could save a life…maybe even the life of your teen!

Summer Boredom Stoppers

“School’s out for summer!” I hear this familiar refrain from almost every student I meet. But, I also know from experience that many will begin to say the all-too-familiar phrase, “I’m bored,” in a matter of weeks. If you hear that phrase in your house, here are some summer boredom stoppers you might want to stock up on.

  • Art supplies. Make sure to keep a large supply of crayons, coloring books, paper, colored pencils, and water paints to get your children’s creative juices flowing. You might even like to get some clay and, for the super creative group, some “edible jello finger paints” for a snacky art supply.
  • Crafts and hobby supplies. This may include anything from magazines and newspapers for collages to Lego’s to model airplanes. Some children might enjoy a rainbow loom or perler beads. My daughter enjoys knitting. My niece photography. Help your children find the craft or hobby they enjoy. Then encourage their active pursuit of that hobby.
  • Passive toys. Passive toys are simple toys that require active engagement from your children. They often require imagination and some level of planning. For instance, Lego’s and building blocks are passive toys. So are packing boxes which can be made into a fort, a tunnel, a car, or an airplane depending on your children’s imagination and need. Matchbox cars and dolls are also passive toys. These toys encourage imagination, problem-solving, and learning. Keep many such passive toys in your home to beat summer boredom.
  • Books. Books are always a great option for beating boredom. They open doors to new worlds. They encourage empathy. They teach and heal (Books That Heal). Keep a variety of books on hand for your children.
  • Kitchen Band Instruments. Musical instruments are a great boredom buster. You can use empty tupperware filled with rice for shakers, pots and pans for drums, and spoons for rhythms. You might also try a “straw-boe” or simply purchase some fun percussion instruments from a local toy store. Of course, you can always give your children the opportunity to learn guitar, piano, ukulele, trumpet, clarinet, violin, or any other instrument of their choice. They are all wonderful boredom busters.
  • Imagination supplies. Imaginative play will “help your child be a head taller than himself.” Keep a supply of dress-up clothes, toy crowns, fake money, and other such supplies available for imaginative role playing. Your children might play teacher, superhero’s, prince and princess, or family. They might even write, produce, and perform their own play for you.

With these supplies your children will have a great time. All the while they will beat the boredom of the long days of summer.

A Father’s Surprising Difference

FatherPerfectFathers, check this out—more proof of the significant difference you make in the lives of your children! Researchers from the University of New Castle followed 11,000 British men and woman for 30 years. They asked the parents of these men and woman how much quality time their father spent with them as children, activities like reading with them and organizing outings with them. They compared the level of a father’s quality involvement in their children’s lives with their lives as adults. The results suggest that the more involved a father was in their children’s early life, the higher the children’s IQ.  In addition, children who experience greater father involvement were more socially mobile and upwardly mobile in their career. I love this quote from Dr. Daniel Nettle, the lead researcher:

“What was surprising about this research was the real sizeable difference in the progress of children who benefited from paternal interest and how 30 years later people whose dads were involved are more upwardly mobile.”

Fathers, you will leave a lasting legacy for your children, a legacy that will impact their educational life, social life, and career! Don’t squander that responsibility. Invest in your children. Spend time with them. Read to them. Enjoy activities with them. Have some good old fun with them. In so doing, you create a legacy, a “real sizeable difference” that will extend into your children’s adulthood

A Father-Daughter Relationship Booster

The bond between a father and daughter is precious relationship. The father-daughter relationship brings one of the greatest joys a father will experience. It also brings many benefits to his daughter. A woman who had the joy of a positive father-daughter relationship experiences greater confidence. She is more likely to graduate from college and A father helps his daughter on the playgroundenter into a higher paying job traditionally held by males. She is less likely to become sexually active as a teen or experience teen pregnancy. When she marries, a daughter of an involved father is more likely to experience an intimate, fulfilling, long-lasting, and satisfying relationship. We could go on listing the positive effects of strong father-daughter relationship—like a daughter’s decreased chance of depression and greater satisfaction with her appearance–but, knowing the benefits of a strong father-daughter bond is only the beginning. What we really need to know is how to develop that strong bond? What can a father do to create the kind of father-daughter relationship that will increase the chance of his daughter receiving all these benefits? A professor and former graduate student from Baylor University have answered this question! They asked 43 fathers and 43 daughters (who were not related by the way) to pinpoint crucial moments of change in their father-daughter relationships. Remarkably, the fathers and daughters agreed as to the most important turning point in their relationships. Engaging in shared activities was the number one turning point in their relationship. Shared activities allowed fathers and daughters to develop a closer, more intimate relationship. It allowed them to spend time together and share something meaningful to both of them. Shared activities added meaning and joy to their relationship. Shared activities include everything from working together to church functions to extra-curricular activities, traveling together, working on school projects, and, the biggest one, sports.

There it is. The way to build a strong father-daughter relationship is through shared activities. What are you waiting for? Get out there and get involved in your daughter’s life. Do some work around the house or in the yard together. Volunteer together. Coach her softball team. Play chess. Go hunting. Take a trip. Spend time with your daughter doing something you will both enjoy. You will cherish those times forever and she will reap the benefits into adulthood!

Your Teen & the Importance of Sleep

Sleep. I cannot seem to get enough of it, but get too much and I feel groggy, tired out, and lethargic…go figure. Still, sleep is a soothing balm of restoration after a long day. As adults, we need about 7.5-8 hours of sleep a day for “optimal functioning.” Our teens need closer to 8-9 hours of sleep per day for optimal functioning. I only mention this because I hear so many parents struggling with their teen and sleep.  I often meet teens who exhibit symptoms Teenager sleeps on the Booksof not getting enough sleep, symptoms like irritability, impatience, mood swings, and even feelings of depression. Sleep deprivation will also increase hyperactivity while decreasing impulse control and frustration tolerance…not a good combination when it comes to social interactions. If that is not enough, sleep deprivation impairs memory, concentration, and attention span, interfering with academic success. And, sleep deprivation slows reflexes and limits problem-solving, impairing sports’ performance. We need our sleep. Teens need their sleep. A lack of sleep interferes with academic performance, athletic performance, mood, and social interactions.

 

Unfortunately, several factors interfere with teens getting enough sleep. One is biological. Hormonal changes impact a teen’s biological clock, shifting their sleep/wake cycle by one to two hours. In other words, a teen’s desire to stay up late and “sleep in” actually reflects normal hormonal changes. Of course, school, sports involvement, social activities, and after-school activities also interfere with a teen getting a full 8-9 hours of sleep. Part of our responsibility as parents is to teach our teen to work around the obstacles to sleep and develop habits conducive to getting a good night’s sleep.    Doing so will help them function to at their best…academically, athletically, socially, and personally. To help, here are 6 tips to teach your teen about sleep:

  1. Create a good sleep environment in the bedroom. This means keeping the bedroom dark at night. Even lights from phones, TV’s, and other electronics can interfere with sleep. So, turn off the electronics. Avoid the habit of falling asleep to the TV or while texting. Turn off the lights and enjoy the darkness that facilitates sleep.
  2. Deep sleeping children girl closeup portraitTurn off cell phones, TV’s, video games, and other stimulating activities at least an hour before bedtime. An aroused mind has difficulty falling asleep. So turn off stimulating devices and games an hour before bedtime.
  3. Develop a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine. When you stop texting and gaming, take the next step in preparing for a good night’s rest…relax. Read a book. Listen to relaxing music. Have a small snack. Take a hot bath. Whatever your teen chooses to help them relax, work with them to develop a soothing routine to prepare for bed.
  4. Do not overschedule. When life becomes too hectic, it becomes difficult to unwind…for adults and teens alike. Good sleep habits demand that we schedule some time to unwind each evening. This can be difficult in today’s fast paced world. To find a balance between activity and rest, each person needs to learn to prioritize and make choices. Each person, your teen included, has to decide which activities to participate in and which activities they will “let go.” We cannot do it all…a lesson we all need to learn in order to get a good night’s sleep.
  5. On the other hand, an inactive teen will also experience difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. An appropriately active lifestyle promotes good sleep. Encourage your teen to participate in an activity. Promote some outdoor activity since daily sunlight helps stabilize the sleep cycle.
  6. As you to teach these sleep habits to your teen, practice them yourself. There is no better teacher than a good model! Your teen will learn from your example.

 

Sleep is essential to life. Teaching your teen good sleep habits will help them achieve their full potential academically, athletically, socially, and personally. So, do them a favor and get to bed!

3 Responses to the Summer Mantra “I’m Bored”

Summer has arrived. School is out and children are home. Soon, if not already, your children will come to you with an age-old problem. The summer mantra will begin. “I’m bored.” The first thought to sound in your head will go something like this, “What? Bored? How can you be bored? There is so much to do!” Nonetheless, you will hear this mantra repeated throughout the summer…”I’m bored.”  Let me offer 3 potential responses to this summer mantra when it arises.


1.   Stare at them in shock for a brief moment before launching into a lecture. Remind them of the multitude of opportunities available to them. Point out the myriad of games available to them or the numerous chores they have left undone. If you choose this option, expect the “rolling eye” response from your children. Your children will shoot down every idea you present and continue with the well-worn mantra, “No. I’m bored.” On second thought, scratch this idea. It just does not work. Go straight to option two.


2.   Empathize with your children and their mantra of boredom. With all the compassion and sincerity you can muster, respond with a statement of understanding like, “Summer sure can be long and boring, can’t it?” Or my personal favorite, “That’s too bad. I’m sorry you’re bored. What are you going to do about it?” After offering empathy for their predicament, step back and let them deal with the boredom. After all, they are bored, not you; it is their problem, not your problem. Let them sit with nothing to do. Let their boredom grow until it motivates them to find something to do. One caveat here, this option presupposes you have already set a limit on the amount of screen time (TV, computer, gaming, etc.) your children are allowed each day (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours per day for school-age children). Without this limit, your children will find an end to boredom in front of a screen. So, set that limit before using option two.


3.   Option three can supplement option two or stand alone. Create an “activity jar.” Gather as a family and list as many enjoyable activities as possible. Include family activities, activities with friends, and solo activities. Include activities ranging from reading a book or taking a walk to calling a friend or playing Frisbee golf. You can even include some simple chores in the activity list, chores like weeding the garden, trimming the hedges, or loading the dishwasher (Aye, chores can be beat boredom and be fun…come on!). Write each activity on a slip of paper and put them all in the “activity jar.” When you child says, “I’m bored” you can respond with option two and add a statement like, “…and if you’re really struck for an idea, pull one out of the activity jar.” Now they will have to resolve their own boredom and doing so may include looking through the activity jar (an activity in itself).

 

All in all, options two and three help your children learn several important skills, like how to manage their time, how to resolve their boredom independently, and how to problem-solve to name a few. So, enjoy your summer. And, when you hear your children join the “I’m bored” mantra, rejoice in the opportunity they have to learn about living with boredom. Smile…and say, “That’s too bad, honey. What are you going to do about it?”

Time for a Family Spring Photo Race

No, I’m not talking about getting the spring family photos or even the lovely spring photos of prom dresses and spring formals. I’m talking about a Great Family Race. This family celebration takes a little bit of preparation but results in fun, laughter, and time together.
 
To begin, pick a destination that your family and other families enjoy. This destination might be a favorite restaurant, a concert, an ice cream shop, a friend’s house, putt-putt golf, a bowling alley, or any other place your family enjoys together. 
 
Next, develop a path to this destination that goes through several other fun places. For instance, maybe the path to your destination will go past the book store where everyone enjoys looking at books (your favorite bookstore), a park where your family enjoys playing catch (Pleasant Kingdom), a free zoo where you can glimpse the buffalo and peacocks (South Park), and a restaurant where you can get your favorite appetizer (you name the place—I like appetizers). Take a couple of pictures that can give your family a clue to identify the next location. Make the clue one that your family has to think about…not a picture of the sign at the park, but of a look down the slide or the view you get on the upper end of swinging on the swing.
 
After you have the clues all together (maybe on your cell phone), start the hunt. Find one or two other families to share this event with and let each family start in their own home at a set time. Show the first picture to your family and figure out what it represents. Then, race to get there. At each location, spend time with your family and any other family that might have arrived. Look at some books together. Play catch. Check out the animals at the zoo. Order and eat your favorite appetizer. Talk about the day, your life, and your dreams.  Tell jokes. Have fun.
 
After sharing fun and conversation at each place, pull out a picture that gives a clue to the next location. Each location you find will draw you closer to your final destination…one of your family’s favorite places. You can make this treasure hunt last as long or as short as you like. Maybe you can have a “prize” for the first family to reach the final destination. Or, maybe the prize will simply be enjoying time together as a family with other families. Either way, have fun. Spend the day laughing and celebrating your family.