Written by Dr. Sidney Langston
Childhood—here today, gone tomorrow. We can't restore childhood once it is gone, but we can make a commitment to it while it is within our grasp. Childhood is a non-renewable resource, and summer is the best time to cherish what will soon be gone forever.
School will soon be out and many parents are already beginning to worry and fret about how they will manage when everyone is under the same roof all day. Of course the days will be harried. Of course the children will become bored and ask you a million times what can they do. Of course siblings will fight with each other, and toys will be scattered all over the house and yard. Nights will be too short and days will seem endless.
Even so, as parents, whether or not both parents work outside the home, we need to remind ourselves that childhood is precious. We need to ask what we can do with our children during the summer months that will help them know how precious and loved they really are.
While they are little, cherish your children's small, chubby and, yes, sometimes grubby hands. Let them know how much it means to you when they take your face in their hands and say "I love you, Mommy," "I love you, Daddy," or "I love you Nana/Grandaddy."
During the summer months allot time for your children to engage in some unstructured play that will allow their imaginations and creativity to run free. This will help minimize any feelings of competition they may have experienced while in school.
It is also helpful to play with your children. This will help build meaningful parent-child relationships that can endure the toughest of times. When parents engage in 20 minutes of playful activities with their children, it does as much good as three hours in the classroom, according to Glenn Nimnicht, a former psychologist with the Head Start program, and Raymond S. Moore, developmental psychologist and author of Better Late Than Early.
The summer months are a time to relax and let kids be kids. Dress them in clothes in which they can romp and play without fear they will be ruined. They will have plenty of time to worry about stains and rips when school resumes.
During the school year many adult responses are expected of our children. When they are on summer break, don't demand adult responses from them. However, do expect your children to follow through on their household chores during their vacation. Just be sure that the chores are not beyond their capabilities and don't threaten them with some dire consequence if they are unable to quickly master new skills.
Keep in mind, however, that during the summer our homes may need to take a leave of absence from their position of "Best Decorated" or "Neatest." With children in the house, it is difficult to win accolades for perfect housekeeping. There needs to be room for finger-painted pictures taped to the refrigerator, clay figurines drying on the porch, wet bathing suits and towels drying in the sun and hobby projects in process.
Summer is also a time for many families to take vacations together. The type and length of the vacation will certainly depend on the interests, needs and finances of the family. Many vacations will involve trips to see extended family. Other families will visit interesting tourist attractions or go camping and enjoy the beauty and wonders of nature. And some will choose to rent a cottage near a lake, the ocean, or mountains rather than spending a lot of time on the road. Whatever you choose to do on your vacation, remember that it is a time for fun, relaxation, rest and a variation from the normal busy routine of family life.
Engaging children in such summer activities as Vacation Bible School, swim team, church camping retreats, sleep-overs, concerts in the park and day trips to museums and amusement parks will give them experiences which are both educational and fun.
Make this summer a time to remember with your children. Make it a summer in which healthy, childlike qualities are encouraged, such as:
- The ability to live an uncomplicated life by simplifying schedules, priorities and goals;
- The ability to laugh, relax and play; and
- The ability to take joy in each new day.
Remember, childhood is fleeting. None of us will ever walk this way again. Please, for the sake of your children, make a commitment to them while their childhood is still within your grasp.
Moore, Raymond S. Better late than early.
©Copyright 1995, El Rophe Center Inc.