Teens On Your Terms

Young, wild, and free … isn’t that what it’s supposed to feel like to be a teenager? While it’s normal for teens to push and discover their limits, it’s also dangerous. Due in large part to the fact that parenting decisions are only as sound as the information on which they’re based, more parents are choosing to rely on tools and technology than gut instinct.

Here are three strategies for parents concerned about their children safety:

1. Install a GPS system in your teen’s car.

In the old days, parents would check their cars for new scratches, dents, or overly fast tire wear and ask other parents if they had seen their kids driving recklessly or beyond their geographic limits.

Parents who utilize GPS technology know where their car is, where it has been, and how fast it has been driven. When continued driving privileges are tied to responsible use, safer driving results. More importantly, teens know that their parents have access to this information, which makes them feel safer if they get lost or into trouble. It’s like having a parent in the car at all times.

2. Install software for monitoring email and chat room conversations.

Sexual predators target teens in Internet chat rooms. Parents should obviously urge their kids not to give out personal information or agree to meet someone they “met” on the Internet. However, since teens know their online activities are a privilege and can be monitored, they’ve got a constant reminder. Parents urge teens to resist talking or behaving online any differently than they would if their parents were in the room because, in a way, they are.

3. Initiate a parent – child contract and home drug testing program.

Peer pressure often increases when kids “just say no” to drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. Kids need a “socially acceptable” excuse, and the words “My parents test me” stop pushy peers in their tracks. Parent and Child Contract Software (PACCS), developed by Dr. Michael Reznicek, helps facilitate conversations and establish expectations (including both rewards and consequences) between parents and teens regarding drug use. Home drug testing kits can be administered at home and provide instant results for a fraction of the cost of a lab, without sacrificing accuracy or privacy.

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Summer Picnics with FamilyCrossings.com

Looking for Something to Do? Go On a Picnic!
Summer vacation…the kids can’t wait for it to start—and parents dread its arrival. The first couple of weeks seem to take care of themselves, but after that, you may be faced with your kids looking at you with that “What can we do now, Mom?” look on their faces. At that first look, be ready: go on a picnic!

Picnics are easy—and you don’t even have to go anywhere! A couple of beach towels thrown down on the grass in the backyard is as far as you have to go.  Of course, if there is a local park handy, you can load up a couple of bike baskets and take your picnic there, don’t forget the picnic blanket. You can be a little bolder, and pack up the kids in the morning and set out for a half-day road adventure and go find someplace to picnic.

No matter where you decide to picnic, make it fun, make it an adventure—and your kids will look forward to doing it again…and again!

Keep Quick Picnic-Ready Snacks on Hand

You don’t have to preplan a picnic lunch, and you don’t have to make a special trip to the market if you keep a few of these things on hand:

  • • Peanut Butter and Jelly (the “old standby”)
  • • Pre-packaged lunch meats and cheeses (if left sealed, a package can sit in your frig for a week or more before you’ll need to use it)
  • • A package of hot dog buns in the freezer (they thaw out quickly and make easy-to-hold sandwiches)
  • • Single-serving-sized fruit cups, applesauce, pudding (I keep several in the frig, chilled and ready to go)
  • • Individual-sized bags/containers of chips, crackers, and cookies (keep a few hidden from the kids so that you always have a couple to throw in the picnic bag)
  • • 1-liter bottles of water and packets of drink mix like Kool-Aid or Crystal Lite
  • • Small bottles/jars of mustard, mayo, catsup, and relish (whatever you normally put on a sandwich)
  • This list just gets you started. Based on what you know your kids like and are willing to eat (without a fuss), you can also keep cans of tuna or chicken, containers of yogurt, blocks of cheese (for cheese and crackers), fresh fruits, granola bars, etc.

    Next time you are in the market, take a moment to look at shelf items and think about how/whether those items could serve as the basis for an easy picnic lunch (or even breakfast or dinner!).

    Think creatively! “Lunch” could be chocolate frosting smeared on graham crackers—it doesn’t necessarily have to be a nutritious meal, just a fun meal! (My mom’s favorite “surprise” picnic lunch was strawberry shortcake, and lots of it—although I do recognize that it took a little planning on her part.)

    Have the Picnic Basics Ready
    Regardless of what you’re going to throw together for lunch, you’re probably going to need a few picnic basics. If you have a picnic bag packed and ready to go, then actually going on a picnic, even if only as far as the backyard, means that all you have to do is pack the food.

    In a sturdy canvas bag, plastic milk crate, or actual picnic basket, keep items such as the following supplies on hand:
    • Paper plates and bowls, plastic utensils
    • Napkins (or a roll of paper towels)
    • Pre-moistened towelettes (wet wipes)
    • Sharp knife, pair of scissors, can opener, bottle opener
    • Salt and pepper
    • Disposable towels (Handi-Wipes are great!)
    • Sunscreen and bug spray
    • Pencil and paper
    • Travel-sized games, deck of cards, etc.

    Items like paper plates and plastic utensils are self-explanatory, but the paper and pencil might just be the handiest thing you pack. As you go on your first few picnics, make a note of anything that you wished you’d had/meant to pack. You can accumulate items as you go. Do yourself a favor and buy the items specifically to leave in the picnic bag (and get accustomed to putting them right back into the picnic bag after you wash them).

    You can also develop a short checklist of things that you need to remember to pack. Print the list and keep handy (this is especially helpful when you have to remember to get items out of the frig, or take medications, etc.). That way, if you are packing in a hurry for a spontaneous “Let’s go on a picnic, Mom!” day, you can grab the list and use it to help you remember to pack the needed items.

    You can use an old blanket, a couple of beach towels, or my preferred picnic spread: an old mattress pad! I trimmed away the gauzy material and elastic that holds the pad to the mattress and left the nicely quilted pad itself. Another idea is to go to a place where you can rent moving trucks and buy a furniture pad/blanket—this makes a great picnic or beach blanket.

    Using either the mattress pad or the furniture pad also makes it easier to shake out sand and brush off dirt. Both hold up well to multiple washings.

    Plan Picnic Activities

    There’s nothing wrong with just tossing a few snacks in a bag and heading out to the backyard just to have lunch! Everything tastes better when you eat it outside. However, you can make your impromptu picnic more enjoyable (and even educational) if you plan a few picnic activities. Why not keep your kids amused with Picnic Bingo?

    Plan a “Shoestring Adventure”

    If you’ll have the time to plan ahead and go on a one-day road adventure, think of someplace local and keep it a secret! You can even blindfold your passengers so they are surprised even if you only go to the local park!

    Have fun this summer—get outside and enjoy spending a little time with your kids!

    Be sure to use the calendar feature at Family Crossings.com

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