This past weekend, I was over at a family member’s house. I was watching my 16 year old nephew play video games. When he took a break to grab some lemonade, I said to him “Hey, whatcha been doing since school’s been out?” His mother chimed in sarcastically “Yeah, what have you been doing?” With a sheepish grin, he said “Absolutely nothing.”
Most of us, especially kids, look forward to taking life down a few notches once school lets out. And understandably so. It’s summertime! The weather is warmer. The school year and all the hard work associated with it is over. It’s time to wind down. But the last thing you want is to go to one extreme to the other. I will explain more by showing you three things your family doesn’t want to lose this summer.
1. Don’t lose family structure and routine.
One extreme would be to throw all the structure and routine from the school year out the window. Forget the bedtime routine, forget the dinner-time hour together, chuck the chores and anything else that messes up summertime fun! While it’s okay to loosen the structure a bit during the summer, children and families still need routine in their lives. The structure and routine provide order and predictability in the house, while giving children and teens the security and safety they need.
My suggestion is to review the school year structure and routines, and tweak them to fit your family’s summer schedule. Try to model the school year as closely as possible. Of course, there won’t be full homework routines, but perhaps you might require your children to do some reading during the day. Bedtime doesn’t have to be exact, but the further away you get from school night bedtimes, the harder it is to make the shift when school starts in August or September. Keep your children on a reasonable schedule. Plan summertime routines the family can count on each week. For example, ice cream on Sunday nights at 6:00 PM, family devotion and a quick chore after dinner every night, and a board game and make your own pizza on Friday nights. With the children home for the summer, it’s a good time to remind everyone of family rules and consequences.
Another extreme would be to fill your summer with so many structured activities for the kids that there’s no room for family fun. My idea of the perfect summer for kids is a combination of structured activities, planned family fun activities, and down time for kids to use their imagination around the house or with neighborhood kids. The best way to make sure everyone in the family has fun this summer is to sit down and have a big brainstorming session. Get out a piece of paper and have one person write down all the fun ideas. Instruct your family to think of ideas that don’t cost a whole lot of money. Take turns giving ideas to add to your family fun list.
Here are a few ideas from our family’s list:
- Play miniature golf
- Go to the pool
- Go exotic car spotting
- Go to the zoo
- Play with water guns
- Take family walks
- Visit summer festivals
- Have family picnics
- Play with remote control cars at Safety Town
- Be a tourist in your own city
- Attend a family camp together
Once you have all your ideas listed, begin plugging your ideas into the family calendar over the next three months. Make sure that everyone in the family gets to experience one of their family fun ideas, even if you don’t have the time to do everything on the list.
3. Don’t lose family memories.
Think back to when you were a young child. Which family memories do you remember? Some of your memories were probably negative and some were probably really good. One of my best childhood memories happened when I came in from playing outside in the snow. I hated the cold weather and snow, and I was freezing when I came inside. My mom knew just how to warm me up. She sat me in one of our big chairs in the living room. She had one of those old hair dryers that you put on your head like a hat, and then a big hose hooked to a machine that put out heat. Well she put my feet in the hat and turned on the hair dryer. She said to me “Now you sit right there and I’ll make you some hot chocolate.” As the heat warmed up my toes, I remember drifting off to sleep thinking my mom was the best mom in the world.
You don’t know which family memories your children will keep, but there are ways you can help them capture the good times. Here are six ways you can capture the memories of these family experiences:
- First and foremost, for your planned family fun activities, do your very best to make sure everyone is well rested and fed so the event goes as well as expected.
- Take lots of pictures and then later, and together as a family, put together a scrapbook of this family fun event. Not only does this create a second family fun event, but it allows you to relive the experience through the pictures.
- On your family fun event, have each family member pick up little memory tokens that will remind him or her of their experience that day. It should be something small and each family member can collect up to 4 or 5 tokens. Purchase a small photo album that holds 3-1/2 x 5 photos and use it to hold your family’s memories of that event.
- Inform your family that you will be writing a family newsletter that will capture the headlines of the day’s events. Depending on the age of your children, have each member of the family take a certain part of the newsletter and use each person’s creativity to capture the memories of the day. Use your video camera and pretend you are a professional reporter throughout the day’s events. Interview each family member as they participate in the family fun. Switch roles to make your family fun video funny.
- Write a story together to capture the memory of your family fun event. Have one family member start with one sentence. The next family member adds to the story with the next sentence. Take turns adding sentences until your story is completed. Type and save your family story to read together later as a family memory.
While it’s okay to lose the homework and winter clothes this summer, you definitely don’t want to lose the structure and routine, the family fun, and the family memories. Enjoy your summer!
What activities do you plan for the summer which you don’t have time for during the school year?