Summer can be such a sweet time, rich in new experiences, special adventures and even the loveliness of boredom. Yet we often get into battles with our children when our vision of what summer is all about doesn’t line up with theirs.
We fight to try to detach them from their electronic devices. Kids argue with each other in the back seat when their tanks of patience run dry. You can end the battles and create an inspired, fun summer even if everyone’s vision is different. Here are some tips for cranking up the engine of summer while toning down the power struggles and conflict.
• Identify what is important to everyone in your family. Gather your family together and ask each person to share their vision for the summer. Someone may want outdoor activities. Someone may love hanging out indoors. Some may like theme parks and others may prefer being in the wilds of nature. Knowing and respecting each person’s unique desires is the place to start. Creative planning shared by everyone is the next step.
• Have agreements with your children. Agreements are a foundation for cooperation. Agreements are not “laying down the law.” They have buy-in from all involved. It may take multiple conversations to reach agreement, and that’s OK. Hang in there. When your children make an agreement rather than comply with a command, they are invested. They experience responsibility.
Three summer agreements that have been inspirational in our family: Everyone participates in all family activities, even those that they aren’t crazy about; we try something new each year; and everyone gets to choose family activities. One summer when our daughter was little, she wanted to take ice-skating lessons, so I took adult lessons at the same time the children were skating. She wasn’t a fan. I loved it, and it was a shared adventure that we laugh about today.
These three agreements honor our uniqueness and expand everyone’s experience.
Your son who enjoys reading can choose a book for the family to enjoy together and can also agree to go on the hike suggested by his sister who loves being outdoors. Your child who finds food delightful can plan a family meal, and everyone can cook together.
Trigger issues such as the use of electronics and fighting — especially in the car — are key places for agreements. Consider a one-for-one agreement with one hour of electronics use for each hour of reading. You may agree to “electronic-free” days each week. Siblings can agree on how to handle fighting. When they have tapped out their patience in the back seat, they can agree to read, play I Spy, or simply have five minutes of silence. Let them choose their course of action, making their agreement in advance of the road trip.
• Engage your children in planning summer activities. The more input that your children have, the more invested they will be in what you do together. If you are planning a trip, your children can research places to stop along the way. Each person can choose the destination of a weekly day trip. This is an opportunity for them to lead.
By keying in on what each person loves to do, making agreements and engaging the whole family in planning, everyone can have a remarkable time. Wishing your family a great summer.