In our house it always feels like we come crawling into summer time like someone who just finished a marathon…one they didn’t train for. We are all absolutely exhausted but SO looking forward to a break. Dreams of a beautiful summer of family bliss dance in our heads as parents, but how often is that really the case? One of two things may happen: either we get to August wondering what in the world happened to the summer days, or we get to the end of June wondering when they can go back to school (or both depending what day it is). As one of my children turns nine this year, I have been mulling over the fact that I am at the halfway point of his parenting. Then through tears consider the fact that I only have 18 summers with him under my roof. I cannot waste them. Summers must be intentional.
Originally, children were out of school during the summers because their families needed them to help during the busy crop season. In short, the summer break was created because families needed to be together. It is still true today but for different reasons. Parents no longer need their children to help do the farming, but children need this time so their parents can do family. Summer is the family rescue season.
The rest of the year is so busy with activities. Every waking hour is spent on one of three things: activities, which includes school, church and sports; preparing or practicing for those activities; or being transported to-and-from these activities. Food and sleep are stuffed into a child’s life around their schedule of activities. During the hectic school year there is very little room for family time.
One of the main comments counselors and youth pastors hear from teens today is they feel like they have no relationship with their parents. Teens feel all alone as they face a very harsh world. They are not only alone, but they are unprepared to deal with their world. These two factors have led children to become very angry. As parents we are challenged to deal with this anger. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus gives parents the formula during this time. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 KJV).
This particular translation of the verse gives us a formula for the summer. No one wants to raise an angry child. To avoid provoking the child to wrath or anger, parents must find the time to bring two things into the family schedule: nurture, which can be called an encouraging loving relationship, and admonition, which means training and discipline.
There needs to be a balance, and this balance takes time and investment on the part of the parent. So, summers are still for growing, but it is kids instead of crops. Summer is a family relationship growing season.
A good farmer spends time thinking through what he is going to plant. He doesn’t wait to see what happens to pop out of the ground. The farmer prepares for the summer growing season and plants seeds – good seeds for growing.
Like the farmer, the parent needs to begin by deciding what “seeds” need to be planted in their child’s life. What would you like to see growing in your child this summer? The Ephesians passage gives us a look at two different kinds of crops. One is in the area of relationship and the other is in the area of training (which we will look at next month).
The parent-child relationship is a time issue. That is why it is often so difficult during the busy school year. But it doesn’t have to be that way in the summer. It’s a matter of making relationship a priority by putting it on the calendar. Get out front and save time for family. Instead of desperately trying to find lots of activities to fill in the child’s summer schedule, decide to spend time together.
Take advantage of the slower morning schedules and eat breakfast together as a family. Tackle a family project together. Establish a weekly game night. Take time to explore the amazing area around us. There are so many amazing parks, zoos, beach activities, snorkeling, etc. Things don’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money to be fun and memorable; in fact sometimes the things that are most memorable don’t cost very much at all. Another thing to take advantage of in a slower schedule is taking the time to “date” your children. Spend time with them one on one during these relaxed months.
Make the most of your summer time. Be intentional. Choose to “parent on purpose.”
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.
See a list of Vacation Bible School opportunities for your children this summer.