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Maximize Your Children’s Summer

Parents, TV or the Internet: Which one will guide their summer break?

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School is out for the summer! Put the books and backpacks away! This is undoubtedly great news for children.

As adults, summertime’s promise stretches out before us, with visions of anticipated relaxation and hopes for creating long-lasting memories. Each year, we look forward to special times with our families.

When school breaks for the warmer months, millions of young people find the first couple of weeks extremely satisfying. No schedule to keep, no getting up when it is still dark outside, no rushing to get ready in the morning, and no competing with brothers or sisters for time in the bathroom. Finally, a time to simply relax and do nothing, they think.

This becomes old fast. Soon children must channel the energy they used to get ready for school, attend seven hours of classes, and complete homework into other activities.

But how? Parents can and must do their part in answering this question.

It has been said that a family that does things together—whether it be cooking, enjoying dinner, playing games—stays together! This is even more true in the Internet age when time is easily swallowed by usage of computers and electronic devices.

With some creative thinking and planning, you can come up with or find activities that encourage family closeness, love, friendship and bonding, which will yield warm memories for years to come.

Plan Ahead

As early as possible, examine your schedule to see what obligations you will have during the summer months. Make sure to leave plenty of free time to spend with your kids.

Similarly, think ahead with your children and set summer goals with each of them. Encourage them to write these targets down and come up with steps to implement them. This will take effort, but the rewards are well worth it. For example, depending on the age of your children, assign a number of books to read over the summer months. They will be able to take them along on lengthy car rides or simply read them outdoors in the cool of the evening with a tall glass of lemonade.

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Take advantage of good weather by exploring the outdoors. Depending where you live, there is a wide variety of things to do. Nature walks, rock collecting, hikes through trails in your area, biking, bug hunts, kite flying in your local park, or a picnic are some ideas. You can even camp out in your backyard one night and recount stories and lessons from your life. Make it a teaching moment by scheduling this when a meteor shower or lunar eclipse is to take place. Or enjoy stargazing on a clear night—picking out as many constellations as possible.

Most of all, have fun! Let your children remember their summers as a time when their parents went out of their way to go on seemingly spur-of-the-moment outings. Your children do not have to know that what appears to be spontaneous family fun was actually planned. Take a drive to a nearby country farm, museum, flea market, or county fair. The possibilities of places to visit are as broad as your imagination!

Troubling Trends

Keeping your children engaged is not as simple as it once was. The evidence is overwhelming that families are under assault as never before. Work and the stresses of our hectic lives devour much of our time, often allowing someone or something else to unknowingly take our place as parents.

Technology has its benefits, yet there are related risks. People are spending more time using the Internet and less time with family. The average adult is online 20 hours per week. Those ages 16-24 spend up to 27 hours online per week.

The percentage of Americans who use the Internet has reached 84 percent, with the proportion of young adults ages 18-29 who use the Internet outpacing levels among older groups, according to Pew Research Center. But this trend of rising technology usage affects those even younger.

According to Time, children 9 or younger spend more time watching television than any other activity except sleep—a full 35 hours per week—nearly a full-time job’s worth! This time spent in front of the TV does not include time spent on computers, tablets and gaming consoles, which together add up to another 10 hours per week.

Generally, parents feel obligated to provide the kind of life for their children that they never had—including every material convenience that their children want. Often, both parents work and some even have two jobs to make this happen. Life has become so stressful, so demanding, that a quarter of parents admit to spending as little as 34 minutes of undistracted time per day with their children, according to The Daily Mirror.

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Scores of studies have emerged connecting the effect of family time on the character and social development of children. In summary, the research shows that the more quality time parents spend with their children, the better off the entire family. Teenagers who regularly ate dinner with their families experienced “lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem,” according to The Family Dinner Project. “Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.”

Of course, these gains are boosted by additional time parents spend with children during the summer months.

Our Responsibility

Children are a most precious resource. One of the most important relationships in society is that between a parent and child. Parents have been entrusted to rear, train and develop their children into young adults.

Recognize that children need parents’ attention and loving guidance to grow into mature adults. They were made this way by a Creator who understands what His Creation needs. He provided an Instruction Manual, the Bible, to guide them in all matters, including the parent-child relationship.

Psalm 127:3 states, “Children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.”

Parents have been given a gift from God to look after, treasure and care for. God considers children precious in His sight. He has given them to parents to train, mold and teach.

In fact, God commands parents in Deuteronomy 6:7 to teach their children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up” in the morning. In other words, parents are required to teach their children every moment they are with them. This includes being a good example.

When numerous digital distractions threaten to cheat your children out of a productive summer, you are obligated to make time for the most precious gift you have been given. What type of memories will you foster for them and their children in the years to come?

Plan ahead to ensure this summer is the most memorable, most rewarding yet. Your children will one day thank you greatly. 

 
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