School is out for the summer! Put the books and backpacks away! While this is great news for children who cannot wait to escape from homework, parents may think differently.
As adults, summertime’s promise stretches out before us, with visions of anticipated relaxation and hopes for creating long-lasting memories. Each year, we look forward to special times with our families.
When school breaks for the summer, millions of young people find the first couple of weeks extremely satisfying. No schedule to keep, no getting up when it is still dark outside, no rushing to get ready in the morning or competing with brothers or sisters for time in the bathroom. Finally, a time to simply relax and do nothing, they think.
But that becomes old fast. Soon they must channel the energy used to get ready for school, attend seven hours of classes and complete homework into other activities.
But how? Parents are responsible for answering this question.
It has been said that a family that does things together—whether it be cooking, enjoying dinner, playing games—stays together! This is even more true in the Internet age where time is easily swallowed by computers and electronic devices.
With some creative thinking and planning, you can increase the opportunities to experience activities that encourage family closeness, love, friendship and bonding, which will yield warm memories for years to come.
As early as possible, examine your schedule to see what prior obligations you will have during the summer months ahead, making sure to leave plenty of free time to spend with your kids.
Set goals for each of your children, write them down and then think of ways to implement them. This will take effort, but the rewards are well worth it. For example, depending on the age of your children, assign a number of books to read each summer. They will be able to take them along on lengthy car rides or simply read them outdoors in the cool of the evening with a tall glass of lemonade.
Take advantage of the hot summer weather by exploring the outdoors. Depending where you live, there is a wide variety of things to do. Nature walks, rock collecting, hikes through trails in your area, biking, bug hunts, kite flying in your local park or a picnic are some ideas. You can even camp out in your backyard one night and recount stories and lessons from your life. Make it a teaching moment by scheduling this when a meteor shower or lunar eclipse is to take place. Or enjoy a night of star gazing on a clear night—picking out as many constellations as possible.
Most of all have fun! Let your children remember their summer as a time when their parents went out of their way to go on seemingly spur-of-the-moment outings. Your children do not have to know that what appears to be spontaneous family fun was actually planned. Take a drive to a nearby country farm, a museum, flea market or county fair. The possibilities of places to visit are as broad as your imagination!
But keeping your children engaged may not be as simple as it seems. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that families are under assault as never before. Work and the stresses of our hectic lives devour much of our time, often allowing someone or something else to unknowingly take our place as parents.
Studies reveal that children spend more time watching television than in any other activity except sleep—more than four hours a day!
In addition, Americans in general spend more time using the Internet, and less time with family. The average user is online 17 hours per week.
The percentage of Americans who use the Internet has reached 80 percent, with the highest percentage of Internet use among Americans under the age of 18, according to a study by the Center for the Digital Future.
In 1996, The Christian Science Monitor reported that television, combined with the Internet, now reaches children at a younger age and for more time than any other socializing institution except the family. If that was 14 years ago, how much more so today?
Generally, parents feel obligated to provide the kind of life for their children that they never had—including every material convenience that their children want. Often both parents work and some even have two jobs to make this happen. As a result, Impulse Research Corp. reports that more than 50 percent of families spend less than 10 hours per week together—roughly 1.5 hours per day!
Columbia University examined the effect of family time on the character and social development of children. Teenagers who ate dinner with their families five times or more per week were more likely to perform better in school and less likely to use tobacco, drink alcohol or use illicit drugs than those who ate with their families two times or less per week. The study found that mealtime at home improves vocabulary skills of children and provides a forum for family members to learn about what is happening in the lives of others.
Children are a most precious resource. Arguably one of the most important relationships in society is that of a parent and child. Parents have been entrusted to rear, train and develop their children into young adults.
Recognize that children need parents’ attention and loving guidance to grow into mature adults. They were made this way by a Creator who understands what His Creation needs—and provided an Instruction Manual, the Bible, to guide them in all matters, including the parent-child relationship.
Psalm 127:3 states, “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.”
Parents have been given a gift from God to look after, treasure and care for. God considers children precious in His sight, given to parents to train, mold and teach.
In fact, God commands parents in Deuteronomy 6:7 to teach your children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lay down, and when you rise up” in the morning. In other words, parents are required to teach their children every moment they are with them.
When numerous digital distractions threaten to cheat your children of a productive summer, you are obligated to make time for the most precious gift you have been given. What type of memories will you foster for them and their children in the years to come?
Plan ahead to ensure this summer is the most memorable, most rewarding yet. Your children will one day thank you greatly.