“Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair . . . ”
—Susan Polis Schutz
Summertime has arrived . . . again! Nature doesn’t disappoint. I loved summers as a child, and I carried this love into my adulthood, which made—and still makes—spending time with my daughter, Michelle, especially fun in the summer months. Because I love this season so much, it took me many years to outgrow the notion that everything about the summer had to be perfect. I felt pressured to make sure we were all having a good time and enjoying this special time of year. We all know where trying to make something perfect leads! Now, I set the stage for fun and smooth sailing and just trust that everything else will naturally unfold.
Let’s face it: Summer is a time when daily routines often take a different turn, possibly sending what has become the norm upside down. Creating new routines can feel a bit stressful, especially if both parents work. But somehow, year after year, it all seems to work out. Plans are made, the kids might go off to day camp or sleep-away camp, or maybe they will stay at home and spend time with friends and family.
Whatever the summer plans may be, with school out, kids have the opportunity to wind down, pursue fun, life-enriching activities, and spend quality time as a family. The positive experiences children have this summer can help shape their lives in many beneficial and truly magical ways. Summer vacation has the built-in feeling that we can “slow down to catch up with ourselves,” so this can be a perfect opportunity to just be present with your kids, notice them, feel their energy, and relax into each other. Take a look at these 5 ideas for making this summer with your kids a mindful one:
- Plan a trip. If you can schedule some time away, going on a family trip can be a wonderful, memorable experience for everyone. Brainstorm with the whole family about places you would like to visit—even if they are just a short drive away. During your brainstorming session, have everyone share his or her ideas and come up with a unified, doable plan. It’s all in the going, doing, and being together that’s important—not so much the destination.
- Practice Focused Attention. When your kids have something to share, make it a point to fully listen. In other words, give them your Focused Attention. This may feel difficult to do when there is a lot on your plate, so if you cannot be fully present, let your child know you need to finish something up, and you will be available to listen with all your attention. If you are doing something that can be put aside, why not make practicing Focused Attention with your child a priority?
- Keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes young children may go and on about something that seems trivial. Keep in mind that if they are talking about it—whatever it is—it is important to them. Ask questions to better understand why it is important, and encourage your child to share his or her feelings on the subject matter. On the other hand, older children sometimes keep things in as they try to process their feelings and make sense of new experiences. Be open, receptive, and available if you’re feeling that something is up with your child—let him or her know that you are there, unconditionally always.
- Create family time. Summer can mean we’re all going in opposite directions, so it is especially important to carve out time spent as a family as often as is possible. Maybe play a game together after dinner instead of watching TV, cook and then share a meal, or gather everyone together and take turns reading aloud before bedtime. This is a chance to get creative. Use your imagination to bring your family together in a way that makes everyone feel that they are a beautiful part of something larger than themselves.
- Get outdoors. Being in nature with your children can feel refreshing and rejuvenating, even if it is just for a few hours. I have lived in Florida for the past thirty-five years. My daughter was born and raised here, so we went to the beach often. To this day, she will absolutely say that being at the beach on the water is her most favorite thing to do! Your outdoor choices might be a community pool, a lake, a park, a playground, a nature trail, a hike in the mountains, or your backyard—all of these places encourage playfulness, grounding, nurturing, and a sense of adventure. I would say put the cell phones on silent for this time outdoors and truly appreciate being with Mother Nature . . . and each other.
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I leave you with this parting quote as a reminder to all of us how precious each moment of this summer can be. Choose to be present!. Let’s make this a great time, together!
“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.”
—George R.R. Martin