Though it’s still May the recent temperatures in the 80s and 90s have encouraged an early start to summer activities. Almost everyone looks forward to summer with backyard BBQs, trips to the swimming pool and just being able to get outside and enjoy some sun.
With the freedom of summer also comes an increased risk for injuries, especially in teenagers. Many of the activities we enjoy during the summer months can lead to risky behaviors. In fact, our emergency room and trauma division often sees an increase in injuries during the warmer weather months.
Of course we can’t keep our eyes our kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so here are some tips to help keep summer safer for your teens.
- Talk to your kids about risky behavior and good judgment. Make sure they understand that it’s not just the person down the street that could get hurt or in trouble. If they don’t make good decisions the next tragedy could involve them as well.
- Be a good example. With kids of all ages it’s important to practice what you preach, but especially with teenagers. Children tend to emulate parents’ behavior and activities whether it’s wearing seat belts, drinking responsibly or not engaging in illicit drug use.
- Get your kids involved in a safe activity. Boredom lays a perfect foundation for risky behavior so help your child find a job, a place to volunteer or get involved in a summer sports activity.
- Set ground rules for the car. According to the National Highway Safety Administration most teen drivers are killed or injured during the summer. Tell your teen what you expect and make sure they understand the consequences. Seat belts, speed limits and curfews are important laws that should be followed. Also, distracted driving from food, friends, loud music, phone calls or texting can be deadly. So, they should be off limits. If your teen doesn’t follow the rules, take away the keys.
- Water safety is still important. We think about water safety for younger children, but it’s just as important for adolescents and adults. Counsel them to never swim alone and stay in depths that are at their skill level. You should also encourage them to swim only in areas where lifeguards are present and avoid horseplay.
- Be aware of surroundings. Summer is a perfect time to get outside and get some exercise, but make sure your teen is doing it safely. Try not to go out alone, especially after dark. If running or walking with ear buds ensure the music is low enough to hear what’s going on around you. To a thief ear buds equals an iPhone. If you aren’t aware of your surroundings you are a target for a thief or worse.
Summer should be fun and filled with wonderful experiences. Just keep these tips in mind and enjoy the outdoors. As we all know winter comes all too fast in Chicago.
Dr. Heidi Renner is an integral part of the Loyola University Health System’s primary care team. She is double boarded in adult internal medicine and pediatrics and enjoys seeing patients of all ages from infants to geriatrics at the Loyola Center for Health at Burr Ridge. In addition, she is an assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in the departments of internal medicine and pediatrics. When not seeing patients she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids, traveling and hiking.