Planning a SONshine Summer for Your Family by Jody Capehart When I was growing up, there were natural book ends to the summer. It began after Memorial Day and ended with Labor Day. Now there are different school years all around the country, as well as differences within the Dallas area alone. I miss the simplistic boundaries of having 12 weeks for summer. But then I guess everything seemed simpler in the "good 'ole days" when summer did have more of those lazy, hazy days. Now, at least in Dallas, the school year ends and before anyone has even poured a tall cool glass of lemonade, the frantic summer schedule begins. With a sincere desire of wanting their children to be â€˜well-roundedâ€™, parents enroll their children in swimming lessons, ball games, camps and soon the schedule becomes as crowded as during the school year. Simplify Your Schedule May I encourage you to simplify your schedule this summer? Select activities that are seasonal such as Vacation Bible School, swimming lessons and perhaps a summer camp if your child is that age. Look at the other activities and prayerfully consider the full impact of your choices. For example, one summer we let our boys play summer league baseball. We quickly realized our lives revolved around their practice schedules and games. So the next summer, we opted to not play baseball and we had lots more family time. Each family has to decide what is right for your family. As you embrace this summer, may I suggest making these a priority: 1. Pray. Commit the summer to the Lord. What does He want for you and your family this summer? 2. Read. Get a stack of good literature to read to and with your children. Set up a daily reading time every day. Yes, even with the older children, set aside a time for reading each day.
Everyone grabs their favorite book, and read or you can read all together. 3. Slow down. We are on such a tight schedule during the school year. Use the summer to simply be with one another. Talk. Walk. Play. Enjoy one another. PLANNING "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Remember: expectations can be enemies! When we look at the summer spread ahead of us, 'illusions of grandeur' may dance in our head! We need to realize that everything plan may not be as 'rich and meaningful' as it plays out in our mind. Have you ever planned that 'perfect family field trip', only to arrive and have your children whine for quarters to play the video games? Let’s prioritize our priorities. Find quiet time each day for the Lord, and time to connect with our family instead of simply filling up each day with things to do. Our personalities factor into the equation. In light of the DISC model, each personality type (and we are all unique combinations of these types) ‘brings to the summer table’ certain personality qualities that affect how we plan our summer. This is a simplistic view but perhaps you can see yourself in these personalities. If you are a D (choleric or a lion-type), you tend to be more driving, decisive and determined to make it a great summer. You already have your plans done and you are off and running. If you are the I (sanguine or otter), you may be inspired, interactive and interesting. You basically want to have fun with people this summer. To make plans seems boring to you because you simply want to know which people you are going to see this summer. If you are the S (phlegmatic or golden retriever) you are the peacemaker, you can 'go with the flow' better than anyone. You are steady, stable and sweet-natured. If you are the C (melancholy or beaver) you are the conscientious, careful and competent one who wants to plan every moment of the summer to "do it right". You are a perfectionist and since most things
on planet earth don't measure up, you can get overwhelmed and 'bummed' out easily. Each personality-type has strengths and weaknesses. No one personality type is right or wrong, we are simply different from one another. We often marry our opposites, which makes life interesting and keeps us on our knees as we learn to love one another unconditionally! Preparing the Environment Let's begin to put wheels under our plans. First, take a look, around your home environment. Does it provide stimulating things for children to do so they donâ€™t just head to the television? Let's put out some good books, puzzles, games and hands on activities. For preschoolers, I suggest only putting out 6-8 things at a time on low shelves with a labeled place for everything. Train your child to do one thing at a time, put it away and then take out another. Take all the extra items and put them in storage (most kids in America have too much stuff anyhow). Once a month, you can "go shopping". Your child can trade something in for another item. This keeps the environment fresh and appealing and reduces the "I'm bored" attitude, and keeps you from spending money. Water Ideas for the Kitchen For the kitchen, I suggest putting out water activities on a low plastic shelf. Water is very soothing to children. They usually get the fussiest when you are preparing a meal, so have them close to you doing water activities. 1. Put a bath mat on the floor. 2. Put a low shelf (you can buy them in sets of 3 or 5 at almost any discount store). 3. Put out a dishpan of water and a drain rack. 4. The child can wash a doll, float a boat or be your official salad washer. 5. Children love water. Water calms them down, and they can be close to you. Every one wins. Creative Corner Provide a creative corner somewhere. This is especially good for your right-brained global child. Put all kinds of things in there such as:
old clothes, hats and jewelry for dress up toilet paper rolls, paper, etc. for art work, etc.
Simply let them create, dress up, pretend and use their imaginations! Children of today need more of this. Reading Materials Have a wide variety of reading materials such as Bible books, classical literature, picture books for little ones, poetry and fun books as well. Have a quiet time each day in which each person reads, looks at books or read aloud time together. This can end up being your favorite time of day as well. Limiting Electronic Time In today’s world, children tend to spend too much time watching television, playing video games, on the computer, texting or other electronic activities. I have a book coming out on brain research that will show the dangers of excessive electronic time and children’s brain development. For now, may I simply say, please put boundaries on electronic time. Cultivating Character Qualities Use summer as a time to cultivate character qualities such as better manners, patience, responsibility, sharing and more. It takes time to cultivate these qualities. In my book Cherishing and Challenging Your Children I provide practical strategies on ways to implement “Cultivating Character” and “Giving Gifts of Time”. It may sound cliché, but love is often spelled T-I-M-E. What better gift can we give our children than to spend time with them? Triumphant Travel In today’s economy, many people are opting for trips that are more like field trips or short family trips close to home. But regardless of what you plan, traveling with children can be a challenge. Let's share a few ideas. • Plan ahead. Prepare the children. Pray before you go. • Have a bag for each child with books and games (quiet ones please) to help pass the time. • Get directions ahead of time unless you are blessed with a GPS. While you are at it, add a favorite verse to help you in times of crisis! • Review the car rules before you begin each trip, as well as the rules for when you get there. Remember, ‘rule amnesia’ can become prevalent in children! ☺
Have car games to play as a family. Even the little ones can join in. An activity our children always enjoyed was the ABC game. Find something that starts with A or an A on a sign or license plate, then continue on with B, etc. Sing, play CD’s, have someone read aloud and/or talk.
For years I always said I loved car trips because there were no interruptions such as phones, but of course, that has changed with the advent of cell phones and computers. I still prefer car trips. We have our best family times in the car. Of course we are past the baby stage and then it wasn't so pleasant... Hopefully this summer will be a good time for you to do the things you can't get to as readily during the school year. But realize that you probably can't do everything you want to, so just prioritize what you can do and simply enjoy the sweet summer success of those times. I pray that this summer will bless you with the Sonshine of Jesus Christ!