Behavior & Development • May 26, 2015

Getting your family ready for the summer

Floating LifebealtSchool’s out and summer is here– are you excited for fun family time or afraid of the chaos?  For most parents it is both, so my fellow mom-pediatricians and I have put together some tips to help you have a fun-filled summer without so much chaos.

1)     Set household expectations: What are your rules for screen time?  How about bedtime and wake-up time?  You can set clear expectations while still giving your kids plenty of rest and downtime.

We give our kids more screen time during the summer, but they still have limits and they don’t get screen time until chores and other obligations are complete.  Summer is a great time to explore fun online educational sites like Scratch, Duolingo, and Khan Academy.  Here is a complete list of my 15 favorite educational web sites and apps for kids.

Monitoring children’s media used to be hard– until I found the website Common Sense Media.  It’s the ultimate parental crib-notes on media, so that you don’t have to watch/read/play everything your kids consume before they do.  Common Sense Media collaborates with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Sleeping in is part of summer… but too much sleeping in makes a household cranky and off-schedule.  We let our kids get up later but they still set alarm clocks.  If they get too off-schedule I do occasionally use melatonin to help regulate children’s sleep.  I also have 10 tips for finding your child’s sleep routine, which are especially helpful when it’s time to head back to school.

Sibling squabbles and fighting flare in the summer as families spend more time together.  Good news: no-yell, no-spank discipline is possible.  Clearly defined house rules help families stay happier and teach children life skills that will help them in school, the workplace, and their adult lives.  Our family wrote a list of house rules published here— what are yours?

2)     Make sure you have properly fitted safety gear:  All summer long I see children in the pediatric ER with preventable injuries.  Avoid the ER and spend your co-pay on something more fun by following these 10 easy parenting tips to keep your kids out of the ER this summer. Then come to St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Safety Stop to make sure your child has an appropriately fitted bicycle helmet and properly installed car seat.  Safety Stop is now at many locations throughout the greater St. Louis area, including the new St. Louis Children’s Hospital Specialty Care Center (opening June 2) at the intersection of Mason Road and Highway 40/I-64.

3)     Swim safely: How much poop is in your pool water?  Is there really such a thing as “dry drowning”?  Can you put sunscreen on a babyWhat SPF is that t-shirt, anyway?  What’s the best way to prevent drowningWhich natural mosquito repellents really work?  Our mom-docs have research-based answers to all these questions.

4)     Pick your healthcare providers before the emergency happens: What’s your pediatricians phone number, and is it saved in your cell phone contact list?  Pick a preferred hospital for your children and add that to your contact list, too.

5)     Update prescriptions before you head off for vacation or camp: Every summer my ER fills up with kids on vacation, often because they left home without their regular medications.  Make sure to have all prescriptions – especially inhalers and epipens – up to date and ready to go before you go out-of-town or send a child to camp.  Usually this only takes a phone call to your pediatrician.  Then check out my 5 tips to avoid the ER during your summer get-away, and don’t leave home without the essential parent first-aid kit.

6)     Now is the time to schedule check-ups, elective procedures and other medical appointments.  Are you over-due for an allergy appointment?  Need to get immunizations up-to-date?  Consider scheduling now while you don’t have to pull kids out of school and your schedule is more flexible.  St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s new Specialty Care Center opens June 2 at the intersection of Highway 40/I-64 and Mason Road and provides comprehensive pediatric specialty care including: dermatology, allergy and immunology, orthopedics, endocrinology, and much more.  We hope to see you there!