Spring is not yet here, but I am answering parent questions daily about how to structure their child’s summer. Usually, the temptation is to fill it too full, to sacrifice quality for quantity. If we are not careful, we can start to view summer as a time to build resumes with flashy credentials rather than a time to nurture gifts or build character.
Young Children –My family’s summers often featured hands-on explorations. We did science unit studies that required outside experiments, gardened, watched the hummingbirds, read lots of wonderful books and went on field trips. We made each day an adventure of new things to discover and do. Summer can be a productive time of learning to work as well as enjoying the freedom of the great outdoors. I believe the important thing is to keep life interesting and not lapse into days playing video games, watching television, or simply hanging out with friends all the time.
Jr. High – This is the season to go more in-depth with the things your children love, while also letting them explore new possibilities. Perhaps they experiment with an art class or learn to program. Maybe they join a community gardening effort or babysit. It is fine to go to a specialty summer camp if you can afford it and your child wants to go. Just don’t pursue it for the sake of “looking good” to someone else and don’t stress if it’s not in the budget. Kids of this age need time to read, to explore, and to take a break from formal learning. Overloading our offspring can lead to burnout and rebellion. Everyone needs time to dream.
High School – Unfortunately during these years, the resume building in some families commences in earnest. The pressure can ramp up if we begin to view everything in our child’s life through the lens of what others say we should be doing to impress colleges. We are tempted is to fill these months with more classes or expensive specialty programs. However, I invite you to pause long enough to realize that this approach only leads to conflict, chaos, and fatigue. While we do need to keep some semblance of an overarching game plan in mind, we still need to nurture our child’s individuality and moderate their stress load. Encourage them to challenge themselves with an extracurricular project that seems difficult, to step up to a leadership position, or try something they lack the confidence for. Perhaps you see a need in your community or your church that would allow them to serve, as well as teach them something new. Some kids need to be prodded to be productive. Other parents must step in and prune the schedule so an ambitious kid doesn’t completely flame out. Remember, high school kids are still kids and don’t always have the wisdom to know what they need.
Summer is the perfect time for our children to enjoy a change of pace and discover things about themselves. That combination adds a rich dimension to life!
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