By MARK AND JAN FOREMAN, parents of Jon and Tim Foreman of Switchfoot and authors of the book Never Say No: Raising Big Picture Kids
Summer break is a great time to switch it up, to change the station from Classical to Jazz and try new tunes. For a few weeks families are free from the predictable school calendar and can experiment with their routine. Here are a few ways to change the beat.
Create a team: A “we” is always bigger than “me.” Have a family meeting to talk about what this summer could look like. We want to step into this season with everyone's ideas, genuinely allowing kids' suggestions so they have skin in the game. Summertime is a chance to try teamwork.
Dream big and fun. Of course, we as parents are team captains. But as we change our communication styles from controlling to exploring, we can sift through any ideas that initially seem outlandish. Keep it light. Be open to learning from each other what they truly enjoy and find the common ground.
Here are some ways to plan your summer as a team:
One Free Choice: Allow each child to pick one special thing to do each week. This is their moment, their contribution to the family. These are simple, affordable pleasures. It may be an afternoon trip to the ice-cream shop or a bike ride to the park or making pizzas from scratch. If the family agrees, it’s on. That child becomes the leader for their chosen outing.
Change The Scenery: Is there a place you have all always wanted to visit, that is within reach with a little planning? Or maybe there is a project you can all agree on that will change your home environment, like building a fort or planting a garden?
Make A Difference: We all want to change our world for good, but where do we begin? We can feel overwhelmed by the massive needs around us. We can start by talking about a few obvious needs within reach. Is there a person or family you can invite for a meal? Are you drawn to learn more about and pray for a specific country? Does the local shelter need backpacks and school supplies for the fall? There are always opportunities floating by that we can grab if we are paying attention.
Go to space: Soccer players look for the open field to spread out the game. Summer allows us to run to space that's unavailable the rest of the year. Think of activities that are uniquely summer: barbeques, playing monopoly, lying on our backs looking for shooting stars at night, hide and go seek at dusk, eating half-slices of watermelon in our swimsuits, catching fireflies, walking the beach at sunrise, collecting sea shells, chasing butterflies and blowing bubbles. Instead of bunching up around the fall/winter/spring habits, we can celebrate this wide open season.
Savor Culture: We enrich our family culture by learning something new. As a family, scan your area's calendar for intriguing events: a special exhibit at the museum, a free concert on the green, learning to draw cartoons from an online course, reading about and finding animals at the zoo or fish at aquariums, and cooking an international meal. Of course, what would summer be without trips to the library? This summer staple not only creates book friendly kids, but also gives them quality entertainment when the days are too long.
Play: Our kids’ greatest memories of summer just might be the hilarious moments: playing charades, card games, seeing who could spit watermelon seeds the farthest, backyard races, working on a communal puzzle and movie nights with popcorn. How can we step out of our grownup boxes and come out and play with our kids? Our children love to see us laugh!
Splash: Water is perhaps the best cure for summer boredom. The ocean, lake, water-park, pool, even a slip-and-slide and sprinklers does wonders for every child. And when we jump into the fun--and not sit dry-docked watching from the sidelines--it hydrates our relationships. How can we be in or on the water this summer?
A Child's Contribution: Summer chores not only teach teamwork, but also build character in kids. Yes, chores are also a chore for the parent. But it helps to talk about the week's work with your child, to get buy-in for what your son or daughter will be doing each day or weekly. We made a chart that hung on our refrigerator that our sons could see and mark. There were incentives for finishing, such as one more free choice or a group reward. We did most our chores together as a family on Saturday morning. If our kids could help us cut the lawn, clear the table, fold laundry, we let them. Why are chores important? It tells our kids they are capable and valuable to our family team. We can start small and build on each success.
Summer creates a slacker line. Kids can become testy or moody. Sibling squabbles are frequent. But as we anticipate those moments with a little planning, we can dance around some of those dog days of summer. But here is one final word for the season:
Keep It Loose (from Mark): My mom was overjoyed when school resumed in the fall. Our summers always began with her brave attempts to structure our homebound energy, but she gradually relented to meeting each day as it arrived. By July, my older brother, younger sister and me were cut loose to figure out the extra time. Looking back, there was one great trade-off from this chaos: hours of unstructured play. We built memories, felt loved, and had fun. This is the new beat we can learn over and over again each summer.
About Mark and Jan Foreman:
Jan and Mark Foreman live in the San Diego area, where Mark is lead pastor of the 4,000 member North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, CA. Mark holds advanced degrees in Theology, Education and a Ph.D. in Counseling and Pastoral Care. Jan is a gifted teacher and artist, and also facilitates partnerships with underprivileged women and children both locally and in developing countries. Together they penned the new book, Never say No: Raising Big Picture Kids, and they love surfing, sailing, travel and especially being with their family.