Summer is often when families spend time together, whether vacationing at home, or traveling abroad. Being together presents an opportunity to grow relationships, and build feelings of connectedness. Of course, with more time together, tensions can sometimes increase, and conflict can ensue.
Here are a few tips to make sure your summertime “Family Time” is positive together time!
1) Unplug, to plug in.
Carve out a few hours per day of device-free time to focus on being present and interacting with family members. You hear it all the time… “Stop looking at your phone!” When you give your family members your undivided attention, they know it! They feel it (just as when they feel it, when you’re not paying full attention). Think about the power you have to make your family feel good.
2) Dinnertime is Family Time!
Making dinner together can be fun, and provide an opportunity to connect. Delegate smaller tasks to younger children… like setting the table, pouring drinks, making a creative centerpiece, or preparing an appetizer. Ask older kids to help with the more complicated meal prep. Interacting in the kitchen and dining area beats zoning out in front of the TV, or being spread out, in different rooms throughout the house.
3) “I” before “You.”
Refrain, and reframe…when communicating frustrations to another family member, refrain from using, “You Statements.” Reframe your message, using, “I Feel” statements. And, stick to identifying behaviors that can be described objectively. For example, instead of, “You aren’t listening to me”… try, “I felt like I was not being heard, when you interrupted me.” True, this tip isn’t just for Summer. Use it all year round!
4) Connect, Don’t Deflect
Certain words can act as deflectors, while others can help us connect. Try replacing “but” with “and,” in your communications. “But” can be interpreted as meaning, “no,” or deflecting. See how much better you can connect, when you use the connector word, “and,” in its place. For example, instead of saying “I like your idea, but that’s not appropriate for your little brother”… try, “I like your idea, and I bet some of the older kids would enjoy getting involved.” Another year-round piece of advice.
5) Family planned, family vacation
Parents can come up with a list of possible destinations. Then, the children can choose some of the activities. If the kids can be involved, they will more likely experience that their interests are regarded as important. Doing this will help everyone feel valued, and heard. And, that sets a good tone for the vacation, ahead.
6) Care to prepare
Familiarize yourself with the myriad of games that you can play in the car, or on the plane that get the family interacting. Start a round of, “The License Plate Game,” in which you try to spot the most license plates from different states. “Eye Spy” is especially fun for younger children, and it encourages them to be mindful of their surroundings. Mad Libs™ can create some laughs, while also teaching children about parts of speech and grammar.
7) Think ahead…about how to remember
Work together to make a scrapbook or video of the vacation to help remember the memories you create. Have each family member contribute a small video clip, or a couple of photos. Then, when you return from vacation, get everyone together to make a book, or video. Years later, the whole family will be able to reminisce about the time they spent together, over the Summer.
8) The Family Book Club
Pick a book that everyone is interested in, and take turns reading a chapter out loud, each night (during “unplugged time”). Encourage discussion about the different characters and storyline. Invite children and family members to express their opinions.
9) All together, for one-on-one
Vacations can be a perfect time for one parent to spend individual time with each of their children. Vacations are what afford us that extra time to be able to plan a Father-daughter, Mother-son excursion… or, a Mother-daughter, Father-son game! Spending one-on-one time with each child will help them all feel special.
10) Preparing for School and Setting Goals
Yes, though “school” somehow doesn’t seem like it ought to be a part of Summer vacation, the start of the school year is an important reference point. If the school year is only regarded as, “The official end of Summer”… well, then everyone is going to feel a level of dread, which will increase, as the months go by. Talking about the school year ahead can help the experience of Summer’s end seem less abrupt. Actually, preparing for school can be treated as another fun activity (as opposed to an end of a good time). Shop for school supplies, decorate binders, and make some concrete goals for the year ahead. Encourage kids to think about seeing their school friends. Arrange a playdate with school friends, before the school year begins reconnect with other school kid’s parents.