We try to put them in summer camps and coaching, footing huge bills and juggle our work between dropping and picking them up. Yet time drags along slowly. ‘What shall we do’ seems to be the constant query. Their shouts and screams fill the house and they leave every space in the house as if a tornado had just struck. But there is a way out apart from packing them off to classes or native homes.
Re-orienting the parenting matrix
There are many challenges of parenting today such as the stresses of work, financial worry, marital tension and conflict. There are more forces than ever that are tearing at relationships with children. Life, with its infinite distractions and constant separations, has a way of eroding connection. As parents we need to repeatedly reconnect with our children, just to repair the daily erosion created by life’s normal separations and distractions. Summer is actually a great opportunity for parents to create lasting memories with their children by sharing experiences that are fun for the whole family.
While our children are separated from us, they orient themselves around other things: their teacher, their peers, their ipad or smartphone. As Gordon Neufeld, author of ‘Hold On To Your Kids’ says, when we recollect our children physically into our orbit, we must make sure we recollect them emotionally as well.
Effective parenting is almost impossible until the positive connection with your child has been re-established, so think of this as preventive maintenance before there’s a problem. How? – Place a premium on relationships in your family. If your expectation is that re-connecting after time apart is an important part of life, your children will share that expectation.
Summer time, when the children are not pressurised by studies and school timings, is a great time to reconnect with them, their lost childhood and the kid hidden within us. Who says you need to drive 14 hours or hop on a plane to a far off destination in order to have a fabulous summer with your kids? There are so many things you can do at home, or if you opt to, on vacation with your children to make sure you make the most of your quality time together.
Be a Kid with Your Kids
Oftentimes, we as adults, are so far disconnected from what it was like to be a kid because of all of our responsibilities and deadlines that we forget that we too need to just relax and enjoy the moment with our children. Acting goofy and playing around with your kids is the perfect way to not only get in touch with your inner child and release some of those feel-good endorphins, but it is also a fantastic way to connect with your children. So you let your kids try on your clothes and shoes or paint your nails. You may look silly running around playing Spiderman with your kids, who cares, your bonding with them. When children can relate to you, the relationship and bond you share with them grows!
Turn off the iPhone, tablets, and TV. Remind yourself why you had kids and just how much fun they are. Pull out those board games you bought way back in anticipation of kids that could play with you one day.
Do activities that all of you enjoy together. Get creative and think of how you would spend time together if you were in the pre-technology era. Ask kids to suggest some ways and try out feasible ideas.
Getting a Little Wet and Muddy
Get out of the four walls and head out! If you have space outside try gardening or water fights. Be ready to get yourself mucky, don’t worry about the washing afterward. Wear some old clothes that you keep aside for this purpose. Seeing a new vegetable or flower garden grow and tending to it is also highly therapeutic and stress busting. If you don’t have outdoor/garden space then just head out for a walk, explore the gardens close to you for different types of flowers, insects etc.
Cooking or baking together can be a great way to connect. You do not have to be solely responsible for your kitchen. Give up control and get the family involved in at least one meal a week for starters. Get innovative, try something new. Have a different member of the family as master chef on different days and the rest of you help out. Make sure cleaning up after is part of the deal so you are not left with a huge mess later. Feel free to have some ground rules within which to have fun. Cook and eat family meals together at the table not in front of the TV or laptop.
Music and Art
Music and Art are therapeutic and doing it together as a family is great fun. If you are a musical family try jamming together or have a karaoke night and let the talent flow. Try your hand at dance too. As a couple why not try learning dance together?
If many of you like art, try creating a piece of art together or try redecorating one room or part of it. The idea is not perfection but the pleasure of bringing out your creative sides so do not get finicky with details and spoil the mood. You can even try learning an instrument or art form together.
Playing a sport together is a great way to bond. Chose your sport and start playing it regularly—it will get you fit, active and you will enjoy a great time together. Do not shy away from giving new sports a try. Play in your car park or backyard or a sports centre that suits all or most of you.
Time for mom and dad to take a break and let the kids be in charge. Depending on your child’s age this could be as extensive as you want it to be. Have the kids make dinner while you whine about being hungry. Tell them to plan the whole day, or just an afternoon. The sky’s the limit when the kids are in charge.
If you intentionally set apart time to spend as a family together this summer, there are enough things to try out. Just step out of your comfort zones and normal routines, break the monotony and get going. Let this summer be a time of great bonding and memories that last a lifetime.