Summer offers families the chance to slow down and reconnect – something I know we look forward to all year long. My family heads to upstate New York every summer and it’s a long-standing tradition filled with precious memories that I know make an incredible impact on our ability to connect as a family.
Connecting through traditions
Whether you are heading to North Carolina, the Northeast, or staying local and enjoying things like the beach, there is an opportunity to build tradition with our kids. For 4KIDS Foster and Adoptive Families this idea can often be challenging as we don’t always know what the future may hold for the kids in our home, or for adoptive families, we can often feel disappointed over the summers and other moments we missed out on with our kids. But introducing traditions, whether they are big or small, can have a lasting impact. Talking to our kids about future plans, upcoming trips, and hopes for the summer can help them begin to prepare mentally and emotionally for whatever is in store.
Why connection matters
Right now, 4KIDS is in the midst of a summer podcast series on connecting with our kids, with special guests from our EPIC Clinical Team. Our therapists and clinicians shed light on the ways connection can help build and heal relationships and bring about positive behavioral changes in any child. There’s a phrase that always sticks with me from our EPIC team. They often say, “Connection before correction,” and this summer there will undoubtedly be moments where we find ourselves as parents needing to correct our kids. But heading into summer or heading into a specific trip you might have planned with the heart and goal of connection can make all the difference.
Ways to connect
There are so many practical ways we can begin to intentionally incorporate more connection with our kids. Talking to them about summer plans and trips you might have planned gives you the opportunity as a family to think about your hopes and desires for the trip and help our kids have clear expectations. For kids who have experienced trauma, setting clear expectations and helping with transitions out of the normal school routine and into a new routine, can help prevent future meltdowns and difficult behavior.
Once that trip or activity is completed, kids can get involved in savoring those memories by creating a scrapbook or printing and displaying photos from their favorite moments. I look around my office at 4KIDS and it is filled with pictures of my family through the years, a lot of them from different trips and vacations. Just being able to look on at those memories throughout the day helps instill for both kids and adults the kind of legacy of love we all long for in our families. It helps us to do just as Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
Connection through play
Beyond trips and activities, another way to connect with our kids is through play! And summer offers us so many opportunities to slow down and play. We know through Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) that play is a child’s first language. In fact, if you’re trying to teach your child something new this summer, try play! Research shows that when a child is learning a new skill or behavior, it takes 10-20 repetitions to learn through play, compared to 400 repetitions without play. Our kids have the ability to process their emotions through play and experience safety when we as parents can play and allow them to take the lead. In the midst of our busy lives, it is so easy to overlook something as simple as playing with our kids.
So if you find yourself overwhelmed by summer or maybe you’re just curious about how to approach summer in a new way, there are so many resources for families through the EPIC Therapeutic Approach, and these tips apply for more than just foster and adoptive families but for all families.
We know that Proverbs 22:6 compels us, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Let’s look at summer as our chance to experience even more connection and growth as a family!
For more on 4KIDS of South Florida, visit https://www.4kids.us/
Read last month’s article by Kevin Enders at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/restoration/