Summertime! Kids everywhere are living in anticipation of release from school for the summer. What happens then? That is an important question to ask; parents everywhere should consider what is best for their children. When planning your child’s summer, I suggest you consider the following.
Encourage your children to read! Reading skills, like any other skills, get better with practice. Besides that, reading good books is a great escape from reality. For ideas of what to encourage your children to read, take a look at 50 Books Every Child Should Read. Some of these books are written for younger children (The Lorax and The Giving Tree, for example) and would be easy reads for your teen. They have important lessons to learn, however, and spending a little time reading them to younger siblings is a valuable experience. For great family time, read the same books together and spend time over dinner discussing the books. My daughter likes to read a book together with her children and then watch the movie of the book. The questions and discussion that follows is natural and fun for her and the kids.
Get outside and enjoy the great outdoors! Kids do not spend enough time outside playing. Think about the games you played with other children and teach them to your own kids. For younger kids, Four Square, King of the Hill, Kick the Can, and Capture the Flag are fun and provide enjoyable exercise. Participating in summer league sports or attending a sports camp can help build skills and keep in shape over the summer months, as well. For some ideas for outdoor games, see 30 Outdoor Games for Simple Outdoor Play.
Limit screen time. It is important that teens do not spend all their free time online. It is true that there are great educational games and apps, but teens needs to develop their fine motor skills that are not developed when typing, using a mouse, or tapping a screen. Besides that, educational games are not often chosen by teens. They are more likely to play online games with friends that can consume all their attention. There is something to be said for becoming an expert in one activity, but teens’ brains are in a state of neuron development that needs multiple kinds of stimulation—not like what they receive playing the same games for hours.
Take some short trips in the car. Some of the best conversations take place when traveling by car. Parents rarely get that much time with their children. Engage them in deep, thoughtful discussions with open-ended questions. Perhaps you can start by asking “What was the most important lesson you learned in the last year of school? Why was that important?” Then next, “What goals are you going to set for next year? How will that help you?”
Relish the time you have with your child this summer. Spend time traveling, playing games, and reading together. Talk, talk, talk! Families can get so busy they forget to slow down and visit with each other. Adolescents like to pretend they do not need their parents any more. Truthfully, though, they are making decisions that can affect the rest of their lives. They need you now more than ever; the extra time you have together this summer is important time for you to provide the guidance they need.