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Preventing Indoor Malaise during Summer - from a Pediatrician and Father

June, 2011
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Once again, the temperature has gone up, and summer is upon us. Having worked in Beijing for the past six years, I’d like to share some insights and tips for managing rambunctious balls of energy with loads of free time. Yes, I’m talking about our kids on their summer vacations.

Safety Tips for Indoors

I don’t imagine anyone is surprised to hear that the number of accidents we see at BJU increases during summer. Kids find the warm weather irresistible, and they can certainly get hurt when they play outdoors (make sure your kids wear sunscreen and stay hydrated). However, on sweltering hot days, kids can be just as accident-prone when they stay indoors.

When I walk into a room, I immediately start scanning the place for areas and items that pose a threat to my children’s safety. I look for potential sources of electrocution, heavy items that are poorly balanced on shelves, boiling water on a stove, standing water of any depth, and chairs that are placed close to windows. I also make sure that toxic products (including cigarettes) are locked and out of reach.You won’t be able to prevent every accident from occurring, but you can take steps to keep your kids safe from potentially fatal situations.

Avoid Summer Loafing: Structure is Key

I’m a self-proclaimed “tiger dad”, but I do find that insisting on a summer schedule seems to be very helpful for children. Kids need to be physically healthy and safe, but they need to stay mentally healthy too.

A lot of the accidents and lethargy that kids experience during summer comes from being thrown off an organized routine or schedule. One of the biggest benefits of a schedule is that it can ensure that your kids get enough sleep. When kids are tired, they may counter-intuitively become hyperactive.Sleeping latemakes kids tired the next day and can impair their judgment when they play, thus increasing the risk of accidents.

Another benefit of schedules is that they help keep kids from turning into couch potatoes. I know it’s very easy to entertain your kids by cycling them between the TV, the iPad, and the computer. However, kids need structure, and I feel parents should stay involved in their children’s lives. The best method I’ve discovered for staying involved is to organize activities for my kids.

These organized activities can be simple. You could arrange joint activities with other families and friends, or you could intentionally choose outdoor activities that the whole family enjoys. Just being outdoors puts kids in a different environment from the home. Being in a more natural environment provides the added bonus of complexity, which stimulates kids to think about the myriad relationships in the natural world. If you accompany them, your kids can ask you questions and generate a lot of hypotheses about how things work. These are things they could never get from a computer game.

Finally, make sure your kids have some time for themselves. My own kids frequently negotiate with us for computer time, which we allow in moderation. And, of course, we pretend we don’t know that they sometimes wake up early to use the computer on Saturday mornings. But we find that our kids are a lot more alert, a lot more themselves, when we go bird-watching all day than when they start slipping into computer addiction.

We do what we do for the benefit of our kids. After all is said and done, I recognize that parenting is an ongoing experiment; we can’t predict exactly what our methods are going to produce. My main advice is for parents to stay involved in their kids’ lives.

That’s all from me. Stay safe. Stay cool. Try to organize some activities for your kids. Spend as much time with them as you can. And I hope you all enjoy your summer holidays.

 

By Dr. Nathanael Goldman

Pediatrician

Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics

 

For more information about children’s health during summer or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Goldman, please contact the BJU Pediatrics Department at (10) 5927 7222.

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