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We can all remember family trips and excursions we took as children. For me, these were opportunities to escape the oppressive summer heat in one of Oregon’s inland valleys where we lived. Trips to the state’s coast, exploring the mountains, or wandering through the Redwood Forest immediately come to mind. Yet the big trips were not the only ones that made an impression on me, but also many smaller, personal family activities.
Without these special times as mile markers, my childhood would be much less vivid today—so would be the memories of my parents.
The trips we took during summer vacations resulted in my childhood’s most cherished family memories. They are the moments that connect me to the memories of my parents and other close family members. At the time, I had no idea what was occurring. Now that I am a father myself, however, I more fully appreciate what my parents did for me. It inspires me to do the same for my young son.
In today’s busy world, it is a challenge to spend this time together anymore. But parents cannot ignore the many benefits of family time. In the summer months, find ways to maximize each day and work to establish enduring bonds!
Making an effort now will pay huge dividends at the end of your child’s summer vacation. It will create memories that last for a lifetime.
The Importance of Family
We all know that making time for family is the right thing to do. But why is it? This question can be answered by looking at God’s mind on the subject.
Our Creator intended for human beings to be family centric. Time spent together as a family has many benefits and has always been at the forefront of God’s mind.
Open your Bible and investigate God’s Word. You will find that God emphasized family from the beginning. The Creator said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). He followed this up by stating, “male and female created He them” (vs. 27). Then He directed them to “be fruitful, and multiply” (vs. 28). He commanded mankind to have families!
God reinforced this in Genesis 9:1: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” This command further strengthens the point that man was encouraged to have families. In Luke 3:38, during a listing of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the first man, Adam, is described as “the son of God.” God’s plan includes the prospect of ever-growing families. Have you ever considered that you are part of this incredible plan?
Given this, no one would dispute that families benefit from spending quality time together. That time spent correlates directly with the quality of relationships within the family unit and, ultimately, sets the children up for success later in life.
The summer months present the perfect time for families to create lasting memories and strengthen their relationships by spending time together. The fun challenge that we as parents have is finding the time to make those memories.
As stated in Genesis 5:3, when we have children, they are formed after our “own likeness, after [our] image.” This description is identical to how God views us as His children and reminds us of the close connection between parent and child. Think back to how you felt the first time you held your child in your arms. Our Creator feels the same way about us!
Going back as little as 50 years, you would find a world that emphasized families spending quality time together. Contrast that to today, where parents and children spend an average of four hours of quality time together weekly. That is just over 30 minutes per day to devote to helping children navigate the complicated world in which they live.
A 2020 Harvard University podcast recounted the benefits for families who had a meal together at least five times per week: improved physical health, brain health, academic performance and mental health. However, it said that only 30 percent of families manage to sit together regularly at mealtime.
How do you turn around such a situation?
For God to so plainly emphasize family and His desire for mankind to “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen. 1:22), we should closely examine why families are not spending enough time together.
Honestly ask yourself: How well is my family doing with spending quality time with one another?
Psalm 127:3 adds to the importance of this question: “Lo, children are the heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” As parents, we are to count our children as precious and nurture them. What better way to do this than to spend time with them?
Find Solutions to Potential Roadblocks
The ancient philosopher Socrates wrote, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” We can easily overfill our time. Yet, by recognizing the importance of our family, we can ensure we focus on what is truly important: enhancing our family relationships!
A busy schedule does not mean you cannot spend quality time together during the summer. If you let them, many things get in the way: work commitments, school activities (athletics, clubs, camps), technology, distance, finances and a lack of good communication.
How do you ensure that spending time together as a family remains a priority? The key is to get ahead in the game and start planning right now. You will find that some items on your “busy” list fall away when you look at your time and what is most important to you.
The first step is to prioritize time together and make your children feel like they are of value. Include them in the planning! Sit down with your son or daughter, make plans and set those plans into a schedule. Make a list of activities you want to do and plug them into a calendar as potential dates. This approach will prioritize your family’s activities, ensuring the time you spend together is purposeful and enjoyable.
How to Make Time for Family
The summer months present a prime opportunity for families to be outdoors in God’s Creation. Warm weather and your child’s availability are an excellent combination and the recipe for spending more time together outside. This summer is the perfect time for you and your kids to discover how “the Earth is full of Your [God’s] riches” (Psa. 104:24).
The list of outdoor activities is nearly endless: camping, boating, visiting amusement parks or museums, traveling to national parks and visiting out of state relatives—while making some tourist stops along the way.
Keep simple ideas in mind too. You could make visiting a favorite local park part of your regular schedule. If it is within walking distance—all the better!
If you have the funds and vacation time to take a more extended trip, now is the time to plan. Pencil a list of dates and activities onto a calendar so the ideas stay on your mind.
Not everyone can afford extravagant trips or activities. That is where budget-friendly options come in: bike rides, geocaching, trips to a local lake or beach, hiking, backyard barbeques, visiting free museums or zoos, family projects around the house or attending free community music concerts.
One of my favorite summer activities as a child was stargazing with my dad and mom. Parents, your children do not have to be up early for school the next morning, so this summer vacation option works well!
Consider Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Ponder this verse every time you see a night sky on a clear and dark night. If you have never done this with your family, try it! It will draw your family closer to your Creator God: “You are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth (Psa. 115:15).”
Take plenty of photos of the special moments that come this summer. Create a family adventure journal or compile a summer photo album. One of my family’s favorite things to do is to review photos and videos from several years ago. This is a great way to bring back the emotions and excitement from past experiences and rekindle interest in doing similar activities again. The definition of nostalgia, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” Use nostalgia to strengthen bonds!
Another key is to be prepared to be flexible. There is a time and place for spontaneity. It is essential to seize the opportunity when you realize you have spare time to take a short walk or have a chat before going to bed. Be on the lookout for such moments. Sometimes, my parents and I would walk down the road from our home to feed the horses pastured nearby. We would bring along apples or carrots for them to enjoy. I still have memories of those times, many of which happened at golden hour after we had sat down to a family dinner.
These spontaneous moments will often create some of the most treasured family memories of all.
Make Time for Learning
Remember that learning opportunities should also be a part of your planning. Learning and having fun do not always naturally come together. But they do if you plan things out. Capitalize on the combination of fun family activities and the chance for your children to learn simultaneously.
What are your child’s favorite activities? Explore options to add these items to your list. My son has an interest in dinosaurs and paleontology. As a result, we try to include his interests in our plans, whether a visit to a natural history museum or a fossil dig at a local state park.
Your local library likely offers summer reading programs for kids. Reading books will allow your child’s mind to stay engaged in learning while they can still focus on subjects that interest them and that they enjoy. Libraries often include prizes or other incentives to keep your children reading. If they fail to provide rewards, you can create your own motivations. For instance, you could offer a visit to an ice cream parlor as a prize for completing a specific number of books. You know what rewards will motivate your kids best!
What do you do first? Commit to a family meal several times a week. Change your schedules if you must! Use these times to discuss what you would like to accomplish as a family this summer. Including your children in the planning is key. What would you like to do? When would you like to do it?
Write down a wish list of family activities and start plugging them into your calendar. Maximize your time together this summer through fun activities or enriching learning experiences.
But you should also work with your spouse to plan as well. Make goals for what you want to accomplish. Moms and dads, how well did you do last summer? How can you improve during this vacation?
As the summer goes on, use every possible moment to grow closer. Enjoy being outside in God’s Creation as a family. At the same time, do not lose sight of those simple moments at home, sitting together and talking. Those can be just as beneficial to building family bonds.
Being intentional about setting a regular time for family activities is essential to maintaining healthy relationships. If you put in the effort, you will experience rewarding moments you will all cherish forever.
Parents, if we follow God’s guidance to nurture and develop our families, we can pave the way for our children to have a prosperous future.