AM I KEEPING THE KIDS ENGAGED THIS SUMMER?
Whether there is a destination in your summer vacation plans or your family remains at home for a "Staycation," the challenge is to use this time well.
I will never forget the advice of a wonderful friend - the mother of ten children and needless to say, one of my favorite mentors!
It was summer break and I was experiencing the challenge of trying to get my two older children to stop fighting. My numerous attempts failed and I was very frustrated. I decided to call this friend for advice as I was sure she would have ideas in her "bag of tricks" that worked in raising a big family. Thinking her answer would be very complicated, I braced myself for lengthy explanations and plans. Much to my surprise, she responded to my dilemma simply, clearly and concisely. She said that most often when children are fighting they are actually trying to get a parent's attention. They want to see what you are going to do - drawing you "into the mix" in order to fix the problem. When I thought about it, this was certainly the case with my own children. When they argued, I often became part of the problem, raising my voice and trying to separate them. Matters were complicated by the fact that they were my size!
My friend proceeded to give me a couple of solutions which required that I not get involved in their little tirade. One idea was to get a cold pitcher of water and pour it over their heads to cool them down, and then hand them a mop, telling them to clean it up! Another strategy was to interrupt them only long enough to tell them that in order to continue fighting, they would need to go to a different room or space where they would not disturb me or others. I chose the second idea, and much to my surprise, an argument that they had been carrying on about, quickly ended with the two returning to the house the best of friends, laughing and joking with one another.
Imagine the simple advice of my friend was right! From that time forward I practiced this new strategy to bring about calm when the storm of a sibling squabble hit. It also prevented me from becoming a victim in the matter. Altogether, this brought about a more peaceful home environment, as the children quickly realized they didn't have an audience any more, and it wasn't as fun to fight.
I guess the point of this story is that as we find ourselves in the midst of summer vacations with the children underfoot, idle time can present various challenges. We need to be prepared. Think about it. When planning a get-away or destination vacation, we ensure all the many details are covered, from the location and transportation, to lodging and the activities. Without this thought and effort, a vacation could quickly turn into a disaster - one of those trips you come home from only to wish for another vacation to get over the first vacation! You get my drift!
The return of long summer days can be productive and restful as well as fun for all with a little planning and foresight. Being proactive and intentional can make a huge difference. Simply because it's summertime, our homes need not become a battle ground for unnecessary arguments when boredom sets in with our kids. Summer vacation should also be more than just an unproductive, "sleep-in-late-everyday" kind of experience. Opportunities abound! So why not come up with a few ideas that your family - with its particular interests, hobbies, ages, and dynamics - might enjoy? You might start by sitting down together and brainstorming some creative ideas. Perhaps you could write them down and place in a basket. Then pick out an activity that would add an element of surprise to an otherwise uneventful summer day. This also introduces an element of fairness if some activities are not everyone's preference.
If your summer plans don't include a get-away this year, remember that a creative "Staycation" can include nearby excursions and outings to nearby sites of interest, picnics, hikes, bike rides, library and museum visits and the like. My kids looked forward to a walk together to the ice cream store to break up the monotony of the summer routine and it was great way to encourage meaningful conversations with them.
Summer can be a time to work together in cheerful cooperation with each other. Being generous with our time and being orderly in our planning will help us reap the benefits of precious memories shared by all! And if little disputes arise, it just might be the time to change the plan, and make room for some fun!
The lazy days of summer can have their share of adventure, interest, relaxation and enjoyment - all the while nurturing virtues along the way!