Connecting with your Child during the Summer

Summer is here! No more lunches to be made or homework to double check—finally a break! This is cause for celebration and yet, summer can also be a time that’s challenging. The lack of routine and structure can be difficult to manage.

There are two common mishaps when responding to the new routine of summer—overscheduling and a laissez-faire mentality. Overscheduling can lead to an atmosphere of rigidness, while a permissive schedule can ensue chaos. Both extremes result in our relationships with our children feeling disconnected. So how do we go about having a summer that is purposeful and cultivates meaningful relationships for our children? Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to make this summer one to remember.

1. Don’t fall into comparison

A seemingly harmless question that we hear this time of year is, “Do you all have any big plans for the summer?” In response, you may feel some excitement and readiness to share because you have an amazing trip planned, or this question may leave you with a tinge of embarrassment because for whatever reason, you’re home and without any big plans. Summer is a good time to remember that bigger is not better. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that whatever images from social media you swipe through this summer are an antidote for creating a happy, close family. Now of course trips can be a fun opportunity to go on an adventure together, but when it comes to creating meaningful relationships with your children, they are not the primary way for growth. In fact, relationships get strengthened through the predictability of care in every-day life occurrences. So, when you see pictures of a really fantastic trip, celebrate that someone gets to have that experience and simultaneously see the value of where you currently are. There’s fun and purpose to be had right in front of you today, so make the most of the opportunity.

2. Don’t neglect self-care

Having a meaningful, relational summer does not equate parents running around providing constant entertainment and activities for our children. Sometimes we as parents can set unreasonable expectations of “Pinterest worthy” crafts and activities. Busyness does not foster healthy relationships. Lay down any lofty expectations and model rest for your children. By watching you take an hour to read or rest in the afternoon, they too begin to see the value in taking care of themselves. This is an unexchangeable gift for them to receive.

3. Do make your time purposeful and fun

So, if lavish trips and “Pinterest worthy” activities do not equate happy kids, what is the most meaningful way we can connect with our children? Routine, simple fun creates connections and memory-making opportunities. As mentioned earlier, relationships grow with predictable care. This is a two-fold process of engaging your child and being present to comfort and soothe your child. Keeping a routine is essential as it helps create a sense of felt safety. Your children know what to expect of their day and they know that you will be available to meet their needs. So, while you maintain a normal sleep and eating schedule, here are some ideas of what it looks like to add purposeful fun that engages your child and helps you connect with them.

  • Create an atmosphere that fosters creativity. Keep some of those amazon boxes handy, get out some old blankets and see what kind of fort or clubhouse your children create. Go to the art store and grab some paint and canvases. Let them create something beautiful.
  • Give each child the opportunity to plan a date of their choice. Give them some control to be in charge of a fun activity. Not only will they be so excited that it’s their choice, you will get insight into what they are currently loving.
  • Set some attainable goals that are age appropriate and that your child would be interested in.
    • Tying shoes, getting dressed by themselves, learning the alphabet, reading a lengthy chapter book, doing a cartwheel, writing letters to a family member who lives far away, or learning to plan and cook a meal are just a few examples.

Don’t forget to celebrate when the goal is completed!

  • Look for someone you can serve and include your kid in ways you can bless them. Preparing a meal for a friend or a random act of kindness can be very meaningful.
  • Utilize screen time as an opportunity for family time by watching a movie all together instead of screen time serving as an individual activity.
  • Spend a morning at home where your child leads you in play. Do they love Legos? Sit near them and watch them build and create. After a time of sitting close, it’s likely that they will engage you in their play.

4. Do seek joy even when it’s challenging

Even if you apply the above three principles to your summer, challenges will come. There is no perfect formula one can follow to avoid struggles. The beauty of parenting is that even on days where tantrums or negative attitudes seem rampant, there is joy to be found. There is beauty in the mess, but we have to choose to be present in order to see the beauty. Look around, what can you see, what can you hear, what can you smell, what can you take in that is good? Let those moments be the ones that are impressionable to you.

Let this summer be one to remember as you choose to see the beauty in the simple ways we can engage and enjoy our children.


Author:

Kara Burr MA, LPC