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What are you looking forward to this summer? We would love to hear your answers to that question. We’re looking forward to spending a lot of time with our kids and two grandchildren. And in June we are super excited to celebrate 40 years of marriage!
Summer is a season to rest, reflect, and recharge. As a couple, take time to talk about the rhythm of your family this summer. What are your goals and priorities for your marriage and your children? What problems do you want to address and how will you measure success? How can you create fun memories with your kids?
When our kids were still at home, we used the summer to focus on three key areas of growth:
- Intellectual development
- Experiment with new skills
- Family bonding
Here’s what it looked like for us and how you might use the same key areas of growth in your family:
1. Intellectual Development
As a couple, we would discuss each of our children and what we thought would benefit them the most. We decided reading was a high priority. Our thinking was that if our kids were good readers they could learn about many topics and teach themselves about those subjects. Plus, reading occupied their time and kept them out of trouble.
So we paid them to read. Almost every public library has a summer reading program so take advantage of yours. To increase their written abilities, have them write a brief book report on what they discovered in the books they read. What did they learn? What did they like about the book? Would they recommend the book? Why or why not?
Stimulate your child’s intellectual curiosity by learning what each child likes. Then take a couple of field trips to a museum, art gallery, aquarium, or zoo to increase their knowledge. Focus on each child’s natural bent.
2. Experiment With New Skills
Most kids have dreams. At different times in my childhood, I (Heidi) dreamed of being an Olympic runner, famous background singer, and talented tennis player. Although I was a decent runner, I didn’t have the skill set to be a professional tennis player or background singer. But my parents were willing to explore different options with me. I took swimming lessons. I played the piano. I sang in a choir. I ran track. I took tennis lessons. I took ballet classes. I learned a lot about what I enjoyed (running) and what I didn’t (piano). By experimenting with different sports and activities, I discovered what I was truly gifted at and where I really didn’t have any natural abilities. This helped me focus and gave me confidence.
When you as parents encourage your kids to try different opportunities you may see that your children are talented in an area you never anticipated. Or it may give your kids a chance to learn a skill that’s useful for all of life. Golf is a great example of this. So many business deals are made on golf courses. It’s an activity you can participate in most of your life.
Skills don’t just involve sports either. Encourage your son or daughter to cook, sew, paint, participate in the local theater, or play an instrument. If your child decides they don’t like it, don’t berate them for it or complain that your investment was a waste of money. That will guilt your child. Instead, encourage them that they haven’t failed and they’re one step closer to finding what they enjoy and are gifted at. Be your child’s biggest cheerleader and advocate.
3. Family Bonding
Summers are also a time to make memories as a family. Laugh together. Play games. Learn a new skill as a family. Perhaps the whole family takes up tennis or biking. Go on vacation together. Some of our best family memories are the trips we took each summer. We visited friends and family and toured historical sights. We shared hotel rooms and laughed until the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes our kids fought and although it was frustrating, we tried to teach them how to resolve conflict.
Summer is also a time when parents tend to have more time with their kids. Use this time to ask questions and show your son or daughter how interested you are in them. Talk about their dreams. Ask them about their friends, what they’re learning, what they’re excited about in the next school year, and what concerns them.
When you consider family bonding don’t neglect the spiritual aspect. Take time in the morning or evening to do devotions together. Share prayer requests and then pray for each other. Maybe you can keep a journal of your family’s prayer requests and how God answered them.
When the summer is over remember how God has blessed your family. If a prayer request isn’t answered in the way you wanted, teach your kids how to respond when they are disappointed or have to wait for God to answer. As parents, your most important role is to train your children spiritually. This is how you have a truly successful summer while you build your family AND build your marriage!