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June 24, 2014

The Family Vacation

By Matthew Gould,

It’s summertime, which typically means video games, lazy days, vacations and summer camps. However, it is important not to forget to spend quality time during the summer with your family.

Summer break is a great opportunity to spend time with family. Oftentimes the school year is hectic — homework, extracurricular activities and busy parent/child schedules. Summer provides a chance to have some family fun and improve bonding with your child. Spending quality time can feel like a daunting task because parents want to get it right. Just remember, most one-on-one time is special time in your child’s eyes, no matter the activity.

So what does quality time with your children mean? In the time you spend with your child, is there a portion of time where you can talk with them? Do you remember to listen to them? Are you having fun? For example, movies may seem great, but they do not provide time to talk and bond with your child. Perhaps before or after the movie you can get some ice cream and talk. If you want to play video games with your child, have lunch together too to open a dialogue or keep the conversation going.

Whatever activity you are doing, remember to really listen to your children in your time together. They might want to share what happened to them in camp, the latest gossip about their friends or talk about a difficult topic. Be sure they know you are listening to them.
Keep in mind that this quality time should also be fun! You’re building memories after all! Have fun, relax and just enjoy your child’s company.

Give Back to the Community
One great way to spend time with your family over the summer is by giving back to the community. Research has shown that volunteering with your family can provide valuable life skills. Ask your kids what areas interest them and search for the best volunteer opportunity. You could collect food for a local food pantry, buy extra back-to-school supplies for a local drive, draw pictures together for a local children’s hospital or clean out your closets to donate to your favorite charity. There also are opportunities for families to volunteer at many community events and facilities.

Vacations and Staycations
Enjoy some of the local attractions together as a reward for good behavior or good grades. Some families even invest in an annual pass for fun all summer long. Other ideas include summer festivals, a day trip, bowling, skating, or putt-putt golf, to name a few.

If a staycation doesn’t seem appealing, spending time with extended family in other cities, states or countries can provide a great opportunity to bond with your child during a car or plane ride. Whether you are playing I Spy or a card game, every minute you spend with your child counts.

It is important to note that regardless of what you decide to do with your child over the summer it is vital to keep your child mentally and physically active. Activities that encompass both mental and physical aspects are great for the well-being of your child and can improve your parent-child relationship. Remember that children are developing mentally, emotionally and physically throughout their years. They need activities that enrich their lives, but also to help them connect with others. The parent-child relationship is the first place for children to learn social skills and how to interact appropriately with others.

Reading together, challenging your children to fun games (not just video games) and new adventures are just a few ways to keep your child mentally active. You can keep your child mentally stimulated by continuing to introduce them to fun, educational experiences, such as a visit to a MOSI, the Glazer Children’s Museum, the Florida Aquarium or Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. Parks and playgrounds offer a free place to stay active and libraries are a free way to expand the mind. In fact, many libraries have free summer events and classes.

For more physical activities, go outside and play a basketball with your child, throw a football around, kick a soccer ball, dance, go swimming or find another sport that interests them. A family picnic on the beach may be the perfect setting for physical activity and bonding time. Not a beach fan? Try camping or roasting marshmallows with your little ones (everyone loves a good roasted marshmallow). Run around and have a water balloon fight. If your child is older or you have a teen, consider letting them choose what physical activity they enjoy. A family day at your local gym or Y is also a great way to spend family time together and stay in shape.

Rainy days and days that are too hot may send you indoors. Fear not. Physical activities can happen indoors too. Many older children or teens may enjoy activities such as indoor skydiving, ice skating, roller skating, yoga or indoor rock climbing. You could even create fun family competitions at indoor Grand Prix places or indoor mini golf.

Just don’t forget to let your child choose the activity sometimes. Children have so much in their lives that they do not control – school schedule, homework, summer activities. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you blend in what they want to do too. Give them a list of reasonable family activities and let them choose which activities they want to do on certain days. If you have multiple children, you could let them decide as a group what to do or you can let each child pick their activity for any given day or week.

Remember that discovering what your children enjoy and spending that quality time with them is the top priority this summer. Continue learning their interests and engaging with them while keeping in mind that making memories doesn’t have to involve a lot of extravagance and planning. Memories are sometimes created by the simplest things. This could mean blowing bubbles together or making strawberry pancakes. Even though you may think that the four-day, three-night trip to a theme park would be your child’s most memorable experience, you may be surprised to find out their what I liked best about my summer experience was something simpler, like family pizza night.

Nekeshia Hammond is a mother, licensed psychologist and founder of Hammond Psychology & Associates, PA, a private practice in Brandon. To learn more, visit www.HammondPsychology.com.

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