While the idea of summer vacation almost always involves good old-fashioned fun in the sun, the reality for a lot of families is quite different. Not only does summer often mean a lot of downtime for kids, but it’s also usually a very different schedule, which can lead to trouble if it’s not addressed appropriately. Unfortunately, a lot of parents want to “address” downtime and schedules for their kids by creating summer routines that are exhausting for everyone involved. Having structure for children is, yes, important, but being fearful of “lazy” summer days can cause unnecessary tension between parents and children. Not only is there a lot that can be learned during summer break, but there’s also a lot that can be unlearned, including the importance of relationships with peers.
School days offer a lot of benefits for families, but one of the less beneficial aspects of school is the importance that it places on peer-to-peer relationships. While no one will argue the importance of learning to make friends and creating lasting friendships, it can be detrimental to family dynamics for children to only rely on their friends for guidance – from how they act to how they dress.
This is one of the reasons why summer can be so beneficial for parents – it’s a chance to reclaim your kids and, in the process, reestablish your relationship with them! Making time during the summer to be together as a family can do wonders for the way you interact the rest of the year, and all of the years to come. Rather than scheduling your kids so that they are just as busy as they are during the school year, find creative ways to give them downtime at-home, especially when you are there. While it’s not always easy to find time during the summer, especially if you work full-time outside of the home, this time you spend with your children is an investment in their future – and one you’ll wish you had made more as the years pass.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways you can take advantage of summertime schedules in order to strengthen your relationship with your children. Below are a few of the easiest and most effective ways to get started…
1. Tell them how much you love them. Finding chances each and every day to tell your child how much you love them can do a lot for your relationship. Even on difficult days or when they haven’t been behaving their best, a simple “I love you” can change everything – and your kids will remember those words for years to come.
2. Make time to play together. Whether your child is 5 or 15, there’s always a way to play together. Not only is playtime important for development in younger kids, it also helps to build confidence with older children. Unfortunately, a lot of parents don’t look at playtime as something that they should do with their children. This, however, is a huge mistake! By playing with your children, you are telling them that they are important and that you care about their interests. In the future, you’ll find your child will be more willing to reciprocate by “playing” with you (going to a museum, gardening, etc.) if you put in the time with them.
3. Eat your meals together. Carve out time to eat together with your children, whether every meal or one each day, so that you create an opportunity for conversation. Do your best to remove all technology from meal time – that means no phones or televisions.
4. Spend quality time together. With so many screens asking for our attention, it’s easy for children to feel ignored. And, if you spend time on your screen, your kids will mimic you by wanting to be on screens of their own. This, of course, leads to disconnection and does little for improving your relationship with your kids. Instead, make time each day to spend quality (screen-less) time together. Even 30 minutes each day can make a big difference in your overall relationship.