Keep the Joy in Summer
Your expectations may include having them help more around the house and yard, giving you a chance to catch up on needed chores. Put yourself in their shoes and how does that sound if you are looking to have more play time? Perhaps you expect them to continue to do some schoolwork to stay on top of their learning. Would this match their expectations? The value of examining expectations is to know where your kids are coming from. You know your kids best and you know what happens when their expectations aren’t met. You also know yourself best and you know what happens when your expectations aren’t met. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Sometimes it pays to throw out the recipe and start over from scratch. So even though the summer is half over, it is not too late to stop and ask some questions.
Come together as a family and discuss how the summer is going so far. Here are some keys to having a successful family discussion:
- Allow each person to say what is on their mind without any judgment.
- Repeat what you heard them say, so they have a chance to clarify.
- Avoid correcting or interrupting them in any way.
- Ask if they have any more to say before moving onto the next person.
If you have specific ideas about what you want your children to be doing during the summer, try to take the approach of first acknowledging what they want and then asking them some questions about the other ideas that you have. For example, if you want your kids to do some math lessons during the summer, ask them some questions about the value of doing the lessons.
- What will math be like when you go back to school?
- Do you think you will remember everything?
- What happens when a pro athlete doesn’t practice?
- How much practice do you think you require? When would be the best time for you to do that?
- What can I do to help you achieve that and be more successful in school?
Not every child will respond to this, as some kids really don’t want to do any schoolwork. In this case, knowing your child is vital to knowing how to set it up so they want to do it. Some kids like to have rewards- let’s face it, sometimes that works. Some kids like to make it like play and play school. Some kids need some structure around it- every day at 11am- 20 minutes of math, you choose what you want to work on. Some kids get bored with routine and need to have some variety. Ask them how they would like to create the time for it and see how it works. It doesn’t have to work out perfectly, you keep adjusting it. This shows your child that there are always more possibilities to explore. Stay in the question of “What else is possible that we haven’t tried?”
Ask for Help- Ask your kids for help. Let them know that you value them, and that you know they are capable of being of assistance. Ask them how they would do something. Ask them to show you how they would do a task, as they may have a better way of doing it. Let go of any expectations you have of how things need to be done. Be clear on what it is you need to have done if you prefer it to be a certain way. Kids don’t have the same desire to have a clean house, clean dishes, weed-free yard, or even clean rooms as you do.
I recall a dad telling his kids that he needed some help in the evening getting lunches made, dishes done and bedtime routines completed. The kids told their dad that they could make their lunches and that they would be happy to help. Allow your kids to contribute to your life through the invitation not through the demands. Again, if you put yourself in your child’s place, how would you respond to someone demanding that you do something rather than asking if you would like to help. It also teaches our kids that it is okay to ask for help. Ever notice how resistant kids can be in asking for help? Where do they get that from?
Have fun- with your kids. If you are living a serious life, what message are you giving your kids? If you have trouble having fun, and many adults do, look to your kids for how to have fun. Let go of any judgments. Whatever you are doing, is there a way to make it more fun? Work doesn’t have to be drudgery, it can be fun. Put some music on, dress up, be silly, allow a little bit of creativity to come through. Be aware of how difficult this is for you and check in and see if it is an area that your kids can help you with. Sometimes it is the kid who for some reason is the serious one. Go forth gently to ease in some fun, laughter and chuckles that will allow the child to feel more comfortable with having fun.
Summertime is a great time to explore new possibilities; to learn new things together and apart. It can be a time that you discover more about your child by being in allowance of the choices made, the responses to situations, and asking more questions that allow your child to share with you what is in their world. It can be a time that you try different strategies to see what works and what doesn’t.
What if summer time is a time for curiosity, growth, play, collaboration and joy? What if you and your kids could honor time together as well as time apart without any guilt. What needs to change to turn this summer around to make it better than it has been? As you ask that question, allow your awareness to guide you to the next course of action. It is all part of the adventure of being a parent. Enjoy the adventure!