As a parent, you are constantly teaching your pre-teens new things. From helping them with their homework and showing them how to wash the family car to giving the dog a bath and using the electric can opener, parenting a tween is like being a teacher in a classroom 24/7.
While you probably try to limit most of your parental lesson plans to age-appropriate nuggets of wisdom, there are plenty of lifelong healthy lessons you can start teaching now. Check out the following four habits you may want to teach your tween sooner rather than later:
Patient Drivers are Safe Drivers
It's probably difficult to believe, but your pre-teens will be full-fledged drivers in a matter of years. Start teaching them now about the importance of keeping their cool while behind the wheel, as well the various rules of the road. Together, check out educational websites, like driving-tests.org, to discover free and useful driver education resources. The website is chock full of helpful information about New Jersey’s rules of the road to help you discuss the importance of distraction-free driving, controlling your temper while behind the wheel, and the meaning of different street signs. It’s truly never too early to start.
Drink Water, Not Soda
On those hot and humid Jersey summer days, it’s tempting to reach for a cold can of soda. While soda can be tasty and refreshing, it's also not exactly healthy. Teach your pre-teens that water is the best beverage to drink when thirsty. In fact, show them data on the American Heart Association website that illustrates how sugar has no nutritional value and that drinking mass amounts of soda can lead to problems with weight gain and obesity. On the flip side, teach them why consuming calorie-free water is something our bodies need to thrive.
Remember the Sunscreen
You have probably been slathering sunscreen on your kids since they were little in order to protect them from the intense summer sun. By the time they are pre-teens, they can start remembering to do this themselves. Teach your kids about how and why sunscreen can protect their skin, not only from painful burns, but also from potentially developing skin cancer. Take them shopping for an easy-to-apply, tween-friendly variety of sunscreen, including one that spray on. When you're headed to the pool or park, remind them to protect their skin and praise them if they remember on their own.
Handle Money Responsibly
If you notice your tween spends money as soon as they get their hands on it, and/or is constantly bargaining with you to spend future allowances or borrow money, now is the perfect time to discuss financial responsibility. As 360FinancialLiteracy.org notes, go over the basics, like budgeting. If your tween receives a weekly allowance, this would be a good opportunity to switch to a monthly or bi-monthly “paycheck” that will more closely mimic the pay schedule they will see in the workforce.
Encourage your pre-teen to track where their money is being spent. In fact, it may be eye-opening for them to learn that Starbucks and trinkets at the mall make up 90 percent of their purchases. Discuss needs versus wants, and start reviewing the pros and cons of credit cards. If your tween sees you paying for your unexpected car repair with your Visa, explain how you try to use the credit card sparingly and for emergencies like this, but not for takeout pizza or shopping sprees at the mall.