“So, mom, can I have a friend over?” That sounds like a typical question for a kid to ask when summer is in full swing. The problem was, we had just walked in the door from my trip to pick up my child from a friend’s house. My mom heart was sighing at the obvious lack of gratefulness for the special outing that had already occurred, and off I went on a child-sized lecture about being thankful and content.
It wasn’t until later that day, that I realized something, maybe I didn’t actually get to the heart of the issue. Once we were all settled in at home, my kids began to engage in different activities and seemed to have a great time, and then it dawned on me…It wasn’t that my children were not content (at least not this time anyway), it was simply that they wanted a “what’s next.” I found it humorous that it wasn’t anything that the kids did to bring this light bulb moment, but something that I actually did. I was going about my day, checking things off my list, working my way through the schedule of my plans for the day, and I realized my child was operating just like me. Not only did my kids like a “what’s next,” so did I!
It’s no wonder that when it comes to summer, it can start well, but when the excitement of freedom has worn off, summer can seem like it will never end. The cries of “I’m bored,” or “I never get to have any fun” become the unwelcome anthems of our children. We wonder why we ever bought them toys, because they obviously don’t remember that they have them. We might even wonder how much it would cost to hire a referee for the day to come deal with all the sibling squabbles. It then becomes obvious that we don’t want a summer break vacation, we want a vacation FROM summer break! But really, we shouldn’t be surprised, our kids have just spent most of the year in a very structured environment, and suddenly they are back at home with high expectations for fun. So, before you start to hyperventilate at the prospect of the upcoming summer months, take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, a calendar or scrap piece of paper and answer some of the following questions, because whether you are a scheduled type of person or not, we can save ourselves some heartache if we go into a summer with a little bit of planning!
1 At the end of a summer day, what makes you consider the day a success for your family (you may need to be specific with each of your kids)?
2 Is there a new chore that you can teach and give as a responsibility that will encourage their role in your family?
3 Is there a new skill that you would love for them to learn (taking swimming lessons or trying a new hobby that sounds fun to them)?
4 Do your children need a schedule to help them pass the days, or a calendar of special things to look forward to?
5 Is there a faith skill challenge that you would love them to grow in (maybe memorizing the books of the Bible with a trip to get ice-cream as a reward)?
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of questions, but it might be a good start to gaining new perspective on what God can do to help our kids live well with the extra time. When I was a stay-at-home mom, the answer for me came in the form of a summer schedule. I filled the day with the things that I wanted the kids to invest in, but I balanced it with special things that weren’t typically part of our days and gave my kids something to look forward to. And yes, I used scrapbook paper, made it all “cute-sy” and posted it where my kids could keep an eye on it. Some things required definite mom involvement, but others purposefully did not so that I could get things done or could do things that I enjoyed too. If we were home, we followed it. If something special came up, the summer schedule didn’t even cross our minds.
For all of you looking for practical ideas…here are some. I planned time for lots of crafting or creating with all sorts of things, play-doh was not off limits, there were marble run creations, and mud pie messes, but there was also time spent reading, practicing instruments and cleaning up before dad got home. I even planned in screen time because…well, I personally enjoy it and want to teach my kids how to use technology in a good way. I also put special things on a weekly rotation: trips to the pool, the library or parks were so fun. Your plans or schedules don’t need to be exhaustive, just done with some prayer and wisdom for how your family will function well. The best part, for me, wasn’t how full the day was, or how many different things we got to do, but it was coming to the end of the day and realizing that I had helped my kids have fun and invested in them as well.
So, I don’t know where this summer finds you, with a house full of kids or headed to work and then home to your family for the hot summer evenings, but I do know that a little planning and perspective can go a long way. Enjoy some time spent looking at the family God has given you, with all its quirks, preferences, talents, and definitions of fun, and begin to write the plot for an awesome summer story for you and your kids!
Written by Karis Stiles, Director of Kids Ministry at Parker Hill, wife to Student Pastor Kevin Stiles and mother to three children ages 19 to 12.