Summertime is almost here! School will be out in the next few months, vacation time is near. Many will travel, spend time with friends and family, and do home improvements or overdue renovations.
Plans also include signing children up for summer camp, Little League baseball, soccer, horseback-riding lessons, swimming instruction, or other activities.
Everyone looks forward to summer because the days are longer and the weather is more enjoyable. More time is available to catch up on projects that have accumulated over the winter.
One of the areas often overlooked in these busy schedules is spending time with our children. Summer provides many opportunities for this!
While growing up in a family of four siblings, my parents worked hard to make time for us. They owned and operated a small garden center business in eastern Canada, which was a 24/7 operation. Somehow they managed to run a successful enterprise while rearing children.
During summer vacations, we joined my father on his weekly trips to the flower and plant auction. This required waking up at 4:00 a.m. and driving over an hour and a half to arrive before the market opened so we could purchase goods for the business.
After the auction finished, Dad took us to breakfast at a diner, which was considered a special treat. Looking back, these were some of my fondest memories of time spent with my father.
Did he have to take us along? Was he not busy enough running a business, especially as it struggled through its beginning years? Would it not have been better for us to stay home? Though my father was a busy man, he found a way to make room for us in his schedule.
Now I am an adult with three young children of my own. I am at a similar point in my life as my father—and am striving to find creative ways to make time for my family.
Are you making time for yours? Or are other things getting in the way, crowding too much of your free time—careers, bills (paying the mortgage, making car payments, etc.), leisure activities, watching television, playing video games, or browsing the Internet?
Recent reports and statistics show families spend little time together. A poll of 2,000 parents conducted by Virgin Holidays and Universal Orlando Resort found that families spend about 36 minutes per weekday together. Even when families do get together, it is often in silence in front of a television. Per week, families spend less than eight hours together on average.
American parents are also working more hours and spending less vacation time with their families. A “study sponsored by Alamo Rent A Car reconfirmed previous stats: 40 percent of American workers who received paid vacation as a job benefit did not use all of their available paid vacation days,” St. Louis Dispatch reported.
“Plus we are likely to work even while away: Half (50 percent) did not unplug while on vacation, with one in four reporting they worked every day of their vacations, according to this survey,” the media outlet continued.
“The most common reason for not using all their vacation? Most (47 percent) reported they were too busy at work.
“Nearly 20 percent reported five days or more of paid vacation went unused in 2014.
“Parents tend to take shorter vacations than non-parents, with 37 percent reporting their family vacation lasted five days or less (vs. 26 percent of non-parents).”
According to New York University School of Medicine, family time is also being obstructed by devices. Each day, children and teens ages 8 to 18 spend:
This amounts to children spending over 40 hours per week using media!
In a survey of 1,300 educators conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, a union for educational professionals in England, approximately 61 percent said children and parents spent less time together in 2014 than in 2012. The teachers blamed technology use and parents working longer hours.
“In response to the survey, one primary school teacher in Kent said: ‘Many of our parents are commuters into London and therefore work long hours.
‘We have children as young as four who are at school 8am-6pm, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner,’” BBC reported.
“A teacher at a secondary school…said: ‘The pressures on family time have grown considerably and work-life balance for many parents is an increasingly difficult area. The necessity to stay in work means time spent with children isn’t always a priority.’”
These reports indicate that parents have an uphill battle! Yet while there are more distractions than ever before that keep our time occupied, the benefits of spending more time with our children and making the most of that time is well worth the effort.
During the summer, it is important to use time wisely and make our families an exception to the trend.
Creativity is key. There are countless ways to create time for the family. In the summer, evenings are longer, so take time to enjoy the extra sunlight. If you have a long commute from work, consider pushing back dinner time so you can enjoy a meal with the entire family. If the weather is pleasant, make it a point to eat outside. When the whole family is sitting down for dinner, turn off the television and consider playing soft, non-intrusive music that still allows for conversation. Smartphones and similar devices should not be brought to the table.
Now for the difficult part: breaking the ice, building and creating an environment for good conversation. Each family member should share his or her highlights of the day. From there, the conversation can develop naturally. Perhaps discuss something heard on the news or read on the Internet. Talk about a lesson someone learned that day; begin with something you learned at work.
Use every possible opportunity to teach. If you are eating dinner outside, there are topics of conversation all around you. Trees, wind, sun, shadows, flowers, plants and animals, such as a squirrel or a bird, can provide a source of conversation.
When was the last time you took your son or daughter for a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood? Enjoy the surroundings. Talk with your children and encourage them to share their thoughts.
Vacations are an excellent way to slow down and enjoy time with the family. All too easily we can plan a getaway that has an agenda longer than what would easily fit into the time frame. Amusement parks, sightseeing, and traveling by either car or plane can be some of the most exciting family trips.
Remember to be balanced. Leave time for a canoe trip on a calm lake, or a day of building sandcastles at the beach, or the simple activity of shell hunting. You can enjoy the company of your children without the glitz of society.
If vacation time is not possible, what about the nearly endless summer weekends? They might not seem never-ending to us, but they do to our children!
Again, take your family away from electronic devices and enjoy the natural world—it does not have to cost a fortune.
Spend the afternoon flying a kite at a park with your child and think of all the things you could teach him: patience, agility, physics, etc. Or take a short ride into the country with your children and show where the food on the table originates. In nearly every locale, there are parks and sites to explore if you look for them.
Even the simple act of reading books together can bond a parent and child. Enjoy reading an adventure and guessing what will occur next. Better yet, create one of your own in which your child is the main character.
Once we focus our minds on the activities that can increase and make the most of our family time, we should never run out of possibilities.
That said, goals need to be set. For example, eat dinner together five times a week. Share two walks in the neighborhood each week. Every Sunday afternoon, go on a family outing.
Setting your mind to achieve simple goals will pay dividends.
Parents have been given children as a gift from God, which He calls a reward and a blessing: “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Psa. 127:3)—they are given to us as a stewardship. A steward is someone who manages property and other affairs for someone else.
In the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-17), Jesus taught that all God’s true servants will give an account of every aspect of their lives—including how well they have wisely used their time to properly train their children.
Imagine being given one million dollars. What would you do with it in 18 or 20 years? Would you make sure the amount grew, so that at the end of those years you would have significantly increased its value? To be counted a good steward, you would need to do so.
The value of each child—his or her ultimate potential—is far greater than many millions of dollars.
God has placed your children into your care. As a parent, are you using your time to the best of your ability—making every minute count? If so, when they reach adulthood, your children will have benefited from your many hours of teaching and sharing your time with them.
And you will have prepared them to lead successful lives!