SUMMER. The mere mention of it probably triggers one of two emotions in you: eager anticipation for a more leisurely lifestyle for your family, or sheer dread at having to keep your kids occupied and out of trouble!
The truth is, most of us aren't able to supervise every moment of our children's summertime hours, particularly if we work outside the home. And along with more free time comes more opportunities for situations your kids may not be equipped to tackle on their own. That's why it pays to prepare them on how to handle possible summertime emergencies. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Train Them in the "What Ifs"
One of the best ways to teach your kids is by playing the "What if?" game. For example, ask them, "What if you got hurt while in the house and I wasn't home, what would you do?" Brainstorm solutions together and act them out. Be sure your address is posted by your phone and that your young children know how to dial 911 in an emergencyand to give their name and address. If you work outside the home, show your children "safe" houses or apartments in your neighborhood to which they can run for help. Remind them not to answer the door (unless they know who's there) and not to get into a car or go any place with someone they don't know, no matter what.
If you live in a tornado-prone area, practice what to do if one's sighted. If you live in a densely wooded area and your kids play outside, teach them how to check themselves for ticks, and how to avoid snakes, spiders, poison ivy, and oddly behaving animals. Of course, what's summertime without some pooltime? For safety's sake, establish a family rule that no one ever swims alone. Identify "people helpers," folks your children can go to if they're in dangera librarian, police officer, crossing guard.
It's easy to let the mall become your teens' playgroundbut it's not always safe, and there are better ways to use the gift of time. When your kids do go to a mall to shop, remind them to go in pairs and avoid public restrooms, using a restaurant's facilities instead.
Insist on seat belts and helmets. These are non-negotiables. If your kids don't have them on, they don't goperiod. Even if your kids are skateboarding a short distance, they need to wear helmets. Even if they're driving around the block, they need to belt in.
Avoid Empty Houses
It's best to have the family policy that your kids don't go to play at a home where no adult's present. One teenager I know who comes from a strong Christian family became pregnant by a "friend" at an afternoon pool party. Because it was during the day, parents thought their kids would be safe-- but there was no adult supervision.
For stay-at-home moms, this means your home needs to be the neighborhood gathering place. While you may begin to feel as though you're running a childcare center, at least you can control what goes on in your home. Single parents and working parents need to partner with each other in caring for kids. Or if you're able, pay an at-home mom to care for your kids. This benefits you both.
Determine TV, Internet, and Video Policies
It's too easy to use TV, videos, and the Internet for a babysitter. These options can be a source of trouble. Since pornography is rampant on the Internet, use filtering software on your home computer. Monitor the overuse of computer games and videos; they do nothing to build relationships with others. Invest instead in a used ping-pong table or in board games such as Taboo, Balderdash, or Pictionary. Don't let the television or video store become their entertainer. Set limits on what can be watched, and when. Be sure you follow through.
Have your kids draw up a list of things to do when friends come over. Here's one idea: Have each kid bring an ingredient to make the world's largest banana split. Or, collect discarded wood from a construction project, assemble tools, and have a design party. Our twins, Susy and Libby, planned a progressive dinner with a group of girlfriends. Going to different homes for a course involved creativity, fun, and friendship.
If you have teens, one of the hardest things you'll face this summer are the late nights. While you won't be able to sleep with kids over at your house, it's more important than ever that they're at your house where you can supervise. When your kids go out, set curfews. Always know where they are and who they're withand insist that if their plans change, they must call. It's a safety net for themand you.
Pray for Their Safety
One hot summer day, our then 10-year-old son, Chris, and his best buddy, Nate, set out for some adventure. They decided to hide behind an embankment next to a busy street and toss mud bombs at passing cars. But after their first big swing, they heard tires screech and a car door slam. Seconds later, an angry policeman jumped over the embankment. Their mud balls had hit a city police car!
The police officer brought two very shaken boys to our house and explained what had happened. The boys were repentant when they realized they could have caused a serious accident. Chris and his friend Nate were grounded for the weekend and had to write a letter apologizing to the police officer. Chris and Nate both learned a valuable lesson that day.
I learned something, too: God had answered my prayers that if any of my kids do something they shouldn't, they'll get caught!
I also realized moms can't always guard their kids from evil, or keep them from their foolish ways. Yet as I've prayed over the years for my kids' safety, I've been encouraged to remember I'm not the only one praying for my children. Jesus is always praying on behalf of my child and yours (Heb. 7:25). It's not all up to us.
SUSAN ALEXANDER YATES is author of And Then I Had Kids: Encouragement for Mothers of Young Children and What Really Matters at Home: Eight Crucial Elements for Building Character in the Family (both Word). The Yates have 5 children ranging in age from 19 to 26.
1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or e-mail email@example.com.