I love summer vacation.
I remember picnics at the beach and playing in the sand. On very hot days, my older sister and I would run through the sprinklers and make up our own games. During the long, summer evenings, my father would play ball with us. We'd all enjoy family dinners outside on the porch after nightfall when the heat of the day finally gave way to cool breezes. I would count down the days until summer. I could hardly wait for summer vacation to begin.
But what is it like for parents?
The approach of summer vacation may be mixed with feelings of worry about how to fill the long hours, what to do about the complaint that "there's nothing to do," how to handle bickering and fighting between siblings, or how to find adequate supervision for children while parents are working outside the home.
When I understand that the most important influence on my children's development is my love and my interactions with them, summer vacation is an opportunity to make sure that my children have large doses of loving connections with me and their father.
During the summer, children are free from the pressure of structured schedules, homework, and extra lessons. I can seize this as an opportunity to create stronger relationships with my children and provide them with the kind of rest that frees them to be calm, creative, and full of vitality.
I find that my children need freedom from the pressure of being in large groups with so many other children. Summer vacation is an ideal time to give them a large dose of relationship by limiting separation from home and family.
It is frustrating to face the fact that much of culture does not support the health and welfare of parents and children. As a result, it has become more difficult to be with our children and help them grow up.
Still, planning for summer vacation became much easier once I moved from thinking that my children needed to fit around my schedule and instead began to think of how I could take care of my children's developmental needs, my primary responsibility as a parent. To explore how to shift my thinking, I asked myself a lot of questions, such as:
- If I need child care during the summer, is there a grandparent or other relative who can be with my children?
- Is there a summer camp with groups small enough that the counselors will interact with my child in a warm, caring way?
- How can I turn meal time into a festive family occasion?
- When I'm at work and not with my child, how can I give him a sense of connection with me?
- What kind of activities can I plan with my children that will give us opportunities to talk, laugh, and enjoy being together? (Examples: cooking and baking, arts and crafts, decorating the house, piecing together family history, making gifts, playing outside together, board games, etc.)
The primary answer I am looking for is how to create a deeper relationship with my children: What will help us to feel closeness, sameness, belonging, significance, love, and being known?
I have found that my friends who are parents all come up with their own unique answers to these questions, depending on what is appropriate for their own families, so they can be the parents their children need.
When I am empowered with the understanding of the significance of my role in my children's lives, I find that I look forward to summer vacation with more confidence and enthusiasm. The more I find within myself how I can be the answer to my children's need for love, frequent loving interactions, and deeper relationship, the more I can enjoy each day with my children.
What part of your morning routine strengthens your relationship with your child? How about later in the day?