On the go? Listen to our blog instead of reading it.
By: Loren Lomme, MA, LPC, RPT, NCC
Now that we’re halfway through summer, you may be running out of ideas for keeping your kids busy. I have a few ideas to share with you that will not only keep your kids (little and big) engaged but will also serve to strengthen your connections with each other.
- Plan a stay-cation: Plan a day and night vacation around town and at home. Start by printing out or creating an itinerary to fill out together with your kids. This promotes creativity, sharing of ideas, and sharing of power (this one’s important). Join your kids in coming up with fun things to do around town or at home where they will get your attention for a whole day and night! This might include making dinner together or creating an ice cream bar for dessert (think Kate + 8’s ice cream for dinner set-up) and a family camp-out in the living room or backyard. The kids will love it and you are scheduling time for bonding with them through play, creativity, and nurturing.An alternative to a stay-cation would be a parent/child date. Help your child create a reservation card with a date and time that you two will be spending together doing the activity of their choice. The reservation is important for showing them that you are dedicated to a special time just for you and them. Remember to follow the same rules that you would on a regular date – give your full attention to your child and turn your phone off during your special time together.
- Learn something new together: This could be something that you are both interested in but have never had the opportunity to try like roller skating. Or maybe you have a crafty tween or teen that wants to learn to crochet or build a birdhouse. Learning at the same time means that you both start on the same playing field and can grow in the activity together. This is also the perfect opportunity for you to model imperfection and healthy ways to manage frustration, as you will inevitably make mistakes with something new. It’s also a prime opportunity to encourage your kid’s effort and attitude (“you are really focused on this” or “I can tell how hard you’re working even though it’s something new” or “you came up with a creative way to do that”). Research shows us that encouragement (versus praise like “good job” or “that’s a pretty picture”) facilitates continued growth and development and builds perseverance and true confidence in kids.
- Volunteer together: Talk with your child about the importance of helping others in our world and find an opportunity to volunteer together. There are several organizations in Austin that are geared toward minors and families who want to find volunteer opportunities around town. There is research to support that volunteering decreases the likelihood that youth will engage in destructive behaviors. Volunteering also increases social skills and leadership skills as well as the likelihood of doing well in school. Youth who volunteer are also much more likely to volunteer and give to charitable organizations as adults. Meanwhile, you get the experience of bonding with your child through something meaningful and passing on your positive values. Definitely a win-win.
- Create a summer memory book: A great connection activity for the end of summer is to create a family memory book together. A memory book is a kind of scrapbook that chronicles the events of the summer (or any time), both positive and negative, from the child’s perspective. Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross from TCU’s Institute for Child Development recommend the creation of memory books as a nurturing and connecting strategy for parents and children. They encourage families to use these books as tools for talking about events in the child’s life and as symbols of how special and cherished the child is to the parent. Include photos, pictures created by you and your child, and memories from each family member. Encourage your child to create pictures and share memories or entries in his or her own words.
Hopefully these ideas can provide some insight, fun, and bonding for you and your children of all ages. Get creative and use these ideas to inspire other activities for building the parent/child connections in your life. If you feel that you need additional tips regarding parenting and children, you contact us to make a counseling appointment or read more about child counseling and family and parenting counseling on our dedicated pages. You can even contact us for a free consult to see if you might benefit from parenting help or child therapy.