As a child and family therapist, and Founder of FocusedKids, I often ask kids “If you had a magic wand and could change anything about your family, what would it be?”. The kids’ most common answer is “We’d have pizza night and a movie together every week.”
I’ve been asking that question for almost 30 years and the answer doesn’t change much. To me, it reflects a strong need for routine family connection in a simple and playful way.
It’s mid-summer, a time when family routines have settled in…or perhaps not! Nevertheless, the return to school is just around the corner. How can families/caregivers use the remainder of the summer break to put a little “connection routine” into their daily lives? And what are the vital components that give kids and parents the contact they need but still have fun, get rest, and have some autonomy in their days, including kid-free time for parents?
How Parents Can Create a Connection Routine This Summer
Parents, YOU ARE IN CHARGE! That means you can set a structure for the family that includes time for yourself. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be much good to anyone else!
Given the complexity of the world these days parenting may be the most challenging job of all, no matter what walk of life you are from. Our neurosystems (brain and body) are shot from all of the stress, requiring intentional breaks in order to right the system.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”Jon Kabat Zinn
I love this quote because waves are eternal just like life challenges. Learning to surf is not easy, just like working through life’s difficulties, but it is possible. Putting time and practice into each day to care for yourself is essential if you want the energy and brain power to surf.
Start each day with a moment of stillness just paying attention to right now without judgement. Notice how you are breathing, how your body is feeling, what your mood is, what you are sensing. Are you feeling optimistic, content, tired, achey, anxious, grateful? Remember, just notice – don’t judge. All feelings are normal, and sometimes just naming them, tames them.
As you begin to do this practice one minute at the beginning of your day and expanding to a couple of times a day, you may soon find yourself practicing several times! This practice can help reduce anxiety, body fat, chronic medical condition symptoms, depression relapse, dementia, loneliness, negative sentiments, and stress levels. Mindfulness exercises can also improve attention span, sleep, positivity, and overall peace of mind.
What Kids Really Need This Summer
Kids build their brains to make sense of their world through their play, especially between the ages of 0-10. However, the brain won’t grow in a healthy way without these factors:
- Parent/caregiver connection.
- A safe environment in which to live.
- Access to wonder, exploration, and play.
- Plenty of sleep, exercise, and a good diet.
Summer is a great time to strengthen these factors!
Build daily time in for listening. The Parent-Child Relationship is one that nurtures the physical, emotional and social development of the child. It is a unique bond that every child and parent can enjoy and nurture.
Manage your own responses and add plenty of cuddle time so your child feels safe with you.
WONDER, EXPLORATION AND PLAY
SLEEP, EXERCISE, AND A GOOD DIET
Essential for any of the above to happen!
- Minimum of 8 hours a night.
- Walks, playgrounds, swimming, bike-riding, etc. at least 1 hour a day.
- Reduce sugar and processed food, add fresh