Purposeful Parenting: Summer Playtime
Carving out meaningful time with each of your children every day can simultaneously sound like a no-brainer and — in the midst of all the scheduled activities and day-to-day responsibilities — a daunting task. As parents, we all want to connect with our children in positive ways, whether they are infants, teenagers or any age in between. It is awesome when it happens spontaneously, but like all things we wish to master, doing it well on a consistent basis takes effort, patience, and lots of practice.
July is Purposeful Parenting Month. What better time than the heart of summer to take on the challenge of engaging with your children and making the commitment to develop a lifelong habit of connecting with them in positive ways. And, guess what? It isn’t hard to do!
Tips for Practicing Purposeful Parenting
Lasting family memories are less about what you do or the money you spend and more about your presence. Make it a goal to spend 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with each family member to create meaningful connections, strengthen relationships, and show them how valuable they are.
- Practice good listening skills. When your son or daughter is speaking, really focus on what they are saying, rather than on what you are going to say next or other things you have on your mind. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Encourage them to express their thoughts and opinions, and respond without judgment. Let them know that you value them, and that what they say matters – even if you are just having fun and being silly.
- Watching television, time in the car, or doing chores such as cleaning up or cooking dinner, are often an excuse not to talk. Why not make these activities an opportunity to engage with your child? Even if you are focused on what you are doing, just being together can be an invitation for kids, particularly teens, to open up.
- Find creative ways to make memories your child will cherish for years to come. While trips to Mexico or Disney World are certainly memory-worthy, the best memories are not necessarily the most expensive or complicated. Memorable moments are often simple and don’t cost a penny. Come up with your own family traditions, like taking a walk together after dinner, playing board games, or just sharing something about your day before you say goodnight. Listening and being present with each other is what matters most.
Things That Get In the Way
Contemporary life shows no signs of slowing down, unless we make doing so a priority. In our efforts to keep up and get it all done, our down time is often spent zoning out, rather than engaging. We are either on or off, which leaves little time to connect with our families.
Common culprits are:
- Not enough sleep
- Putting too much pressure on “family time,” for example, spending too much time, money and energy on a vacation, which ends up causing stress and anxiety rather than promoting togetherness and relaxation.
How do you know your family is overscheduled?
There are definite signs that can indicate that you or members of your family are overscheduled and in need of time to connect:
- Snapping in response to questions or comments
- Feeling frustrated most of the time
- Having a temper or short fuse
- Experiencing intense feelings in your body
- Kids acting out to get your attention
- Not having fun together
- Lacking ease and humor; no laughing
- Always rushing, feeling anxious and stressed
- Feeling overwhelmed
Sometimes downtime needs to be scheduled
When you are making plans, schedule in some free time for everyone, as well as time to be together with no obligations or expectations other than to be with one another. Below are some suggestions of opportunities to connect in meaningful ways and make family memories.
BBQ – Church/Neighborhood Party – Hunting
Picnic – Bobbing for Apples – Circus
Family Dinners – Ice Cream Party – Zoo
Game Night – Piñatas – Go Karts
Poker Night – 4-Wheeling – Snorkeling
Card Games – Biking – Car Show
Theme Party – Hiking – Road Trip
Dance Party – Fishing – Camp Fire
Video Games – Camping – School Dance
Movie Night – Skiing/Snowboard – Beach
Sporting Events – Take a mountain drive – Wii Party
Play Sports – Go to the Park – Sport Game Party
Boating – Tailgating – Pool Party – New Years Party
Take a Vacation – Decorating Party – Spa Day
Fire Works – Shopping – Easter Egg Hunt
Concert – Costume Party – Paintball
Mystery Party – Surfing – Trick or Treating – Musical/Plays
Eating Contest – Cooking Party – YOUR TURN, LIST YOUR OWN!
If you would like to speak to a therapist about this subject or about any other issue you may be experiencing, contact the Maria Droste Access Center at 303-867-4600.
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