Active Kids = Healthy Kids

Active Kids = Healthy Kids
Youth who stay busy reap an array of benefits, including lower rates of substance abuse and new skills and broader perspectives
By: Emily Moser

Summer is here. And as the warmer weather rolls in, you may be ready to roll out a series of activities to keep your kids active and having fun while school is out.

As parents and guardians, it’s almost built into our DNA to steer ourrn kids into positive activities because of the enormous benefits: young people learn and grow, and they are less likely to get caught up in risky behavior.

But there are usually some questions to answer, too. Which activities are a good fit? How can we strike a balance between a run-them-ragged schedule and having too much time on their hands? And what are some fun,rn affordable options in a difficult economy?

Emily Moser, director of parenting programs for the nonprofit Oregon Partnership, addressed these and other questions recently:

Q: From summer camps and organized sports leagues to volunteer gigs, opportunities abound to keep kids active. What’s a “healthy” amount of involvement?

A: In terms of helping kids steer clear of risky behavior like substance use, research shows the more activities young people are involved with, the less likely they are to use cigarettes, alcohol, and rnother drugs. The bottom line is, a little in the way of activities goes a long way in terms of prevention, in part because it helps keep free time from turning into trouble time.

Be prepared for some trial and error to find the right mix and amount of activities that work for your children and family. Some activities — like a day or overnight camp — may be tied to an interest, like music, that they already have. Be realistic about the time you and your children have available, keep talking, and make adjustments as situations and interests change.

The important thing is for your kids to find — or continue to be involved with — activities they really like, at a level that’s comfortable for them, because they’ll obviously get more out of it in terms of building skills, knowledge confidence, and a larger circle of rnfriends and supportive adults.

Q: What if children want to do a thousand things, or say they aren’t interested in much of anything? How can we as a family move forward and make some decisions in a way that is productive and positive?

A: Talk with your son or daughter about the activities they really like and that reflect your family’s values, and have them make a list and narrow their choices. Consider it a good decision-making exercise for them.

On the flip side, if your child isn’t sure what he or she would like to get involved with, brainstorm. A favorite local newspaper or magazine, community center, or library are great sources of ideas. Scour the Internet. And talk with other parents.

When brainstorming with your child, help them focus on supervised activities — art or swim lessons, sports or science camp, for example — that allow them to learn in a structured environment and maybe even be arn mentor, too.

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Q: What about low- or no-cost options to keep kids busy and engaged?

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A: This question brings up an important point. Remember that the rnvalue of staying busy is huge regardless of whether an activity has a cost. Some organized events — summer camps, for example — offer financial aid.

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And many activities do cost little or nothing at all, such as volunteering, creating their own fundraiser, or joining a church youth group. Helping kids build strong bonds with community organizations has many benefits, and is proven to protect kids from alcohol and other drug use.

If your child wants to devote their time to a worthy cause, talk with them about organizations and causes they are interested in. They’ll not only stay busy, but they’ll also gain valuable perspective and experience and help others at the same time.

Oregon Partnership is a statewide nonprofit that exists to end substance abuse and suicide. For parenting and substance abuse prevention resources, please call 503-244-5211 or visit www.orpartnership.org and www.faceitparents.com.

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