Keeping Children Out of Juvinile Court

Concerned that your child will “tag” an exterior business’ wall with graffiti, not realizing that his/her chosen creative outlet is criminal mischief, is costly damage that must be cleaned up by someone who may not be able to afford to do it, and is something that might cost your child to lose his/her future options in life, when the police arrive at your door.

School is out. Boredom, lack of structured supervision, bad influences…what is a parent to do?

Involvement in a creative activity, whether it be art, music, reading, writing, or otherwise, gives your child appropriate ways to express themselves. Contact your city hall, local library, or church for programs and ideas.

Know your children’s friends. Children often care more about what they think of them than what adults think of them.

This year, summer jobs are at a premium for adults and children alike. Help your children find work. For instance, helping several elderly or infirmed neighbors walk their dogs, water their plants, pick up their groceries, etc. for a small stipend can turn them into entrepreneurs.

Even if they cannot find a paying job this summer, insist that they do something, to the extent that they are able and it is age appropriate. Involve them in charitable organizations: helping sort out donations, helping to feed the homeless, accompanying you when you do good works, etc. It may help them appreciate how fortunate they are, open up the world of doing good works and perhaps developing their own positive projects, and maybe even enjoying some time with family members.

Chores teach children responsibility, how to live independently, how to be a valued member of the family, how to be unspoiled. Not every summer activity has to be fun.

Involve them in fresh air, adult-supervised sports, for their physical, social and psychological well-being.

Look for mentors to work with and spend time with your children at the Boys and Girls Clubs, at your church/temple/mosque, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, 100 Black Men and other volunteer organizations.

If you have read this far, you are a caring and nurturing parent with your child’s best interests in mind. Enjoy the summer with your children.

Broward County Circuit Court Judge Merrilee Ehrlich sits on the Juvenile Delinquency bench. She has been a lawyer for 30 years, first in the Broward County State Attorney’s Office and then, in private practice, for over 25 years. Judge Ehrlich was the first woman in Broward County to open a private criminal law practice. She has been admitted to practice all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. She is a Florida Supreme Court certified Family Mediator, County Court Mediator and Arbitrator.