Praying and Planning
What are you going to do, indeed? Here are some suggestions for replacing summer dread with upbuilding family times.
Ask yourself why you don’t want to spend large amounts of time with your children. If you don’t enjoy your children, chances are other people don’t either. Fortunately, they are children. Like adults, they are works in progress. Unlike adults, they learn more quickly. If your child exhibits behavior that bothers you, think about that behavior. Does he whine? Perhaps he’s not sleeping well. Perhaps he gets what he wants every time he whines. Do you have to ask five times before a child obeys? Why do you do that? Express a need for first-time obedience and then insist upon it. Choose one or two habits to work on during the summer and then give them some thought. Determine ways to build those habits into your child’s life. Be the grown-up; take the lead. Change the atmosphere. You’ll both be happier for it.
Never be inside when you can be outside. In many parts of the country, the days can be very hot and muggy. When you consider your routine for the day, plan to be outside as much as possible. If you know you will be indoors in the high heat of the afternoon, get them up and out early and again in the evening. Tell your children again and again that they are not to be indoors when they can be outdoors. And you go outside too. Everyone will be more peaceful if they have been outside. Go to parks and playgrounds and pools. Rent a boat on a lake. Hike the wooded paths of a nature center or hit the hiking trails. Stock up on water balloons, squirt bottles, sprinklers and toddler pools. Take your meals to a backyard picnic table as often as you can. Plan to be outside.
Prayerfully consider the routine of the day, announce it clearly and stick to it. Children take great comfort in routines. They should know that they will arise about the same time every day, that certain chores will be expected, that the day will follow a certain pattern. A balance of work, play and unstructured free time will suit all of you.
Loving, Doing, Thinking
It has been said that each day a parent must ensure that the child has someone to love, something to do and something about which to think. When we apply this simple strategy to our routines, we have framework for beautiful summer days. We determine that we will spend some time every day deliberately fostering strong, loving family relationships. Each child needs some quality face-to-face conversation with his mother every single day.
Also, set out to be certain that a child will have something worthwhile to do. A corollary to this component of our strategy is that we determine that they will not waste time doing things of little worth. That means that we keep a sharp eye on the television and the game system. What seems like a great solution to boredom actually fosters more boredom and predictably poor behavior. It is possible to go an entire summer without video games and it is likely that it will be the most peaceful summer you’ve ever experienced with children. Stock a craft box; plant a garden; buy a new Lego kit and save it for the hottest day in July; dance in the living room; build a fort under the kitchen table. Invite other children to your home but make it clear that the game system is off-limits. Yours will be the house where children talk to each other and where imaginations are awakened.
When we determine to give our children something to think about, we take out an insurance policy against the “inevitable” loss of academic progress that comes with summer vacation. Ask your child what he’d like to become an expert on this summer. Choose a few books, plan a short trip, encourage an interest. For instance, two of my sons chose to study baseball this summer. While we won’t pursue formal lessons, we’ve stockpiled a DK Eyewitness book, a children’s history of baseball, a couple of biographies and Ken Burns DVDs. We look forward to a trip to the “America in Baseball” exhibit downtown. And I’m hoping for a trip to Camden Yards as well. This is not militant summer tutoring; it is encouraging intellectual enthusiasm.
Lower your standards to achieve higher goals. When children are home all day, it is inevitable that the house will show signs of life. Nothing will frustrate Mom more quickly than the expectation that the house will be perfectly neat and clean all day, all summer. Children should help with basic housekeeping. There should be a family plan for order. But Mom will need to let go of her illusion of control and her perfectionistic tendency or she will certainly be miserable all summer. The best way to have a happy summer is to plan at the very beginning that you will spend lots of time enjoying your children and then set about to make it so.
Elizabeth Foss is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia. Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss can be purchased at www.4reallearning.com.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)