Redeeming Summertime With Our Kids
Two years ago when my daughter graduated, I had a slight freak out over everything I feared we had failed to teach or talk about. The short, busy summer ahead before she left for college felt like my one last shot to cram it all in. Some of what I wanted to ensure she knew was practical, like paying attention to the washing instructions on the tag inside her clothes and checking the bank app frequently so as not to overdraw cash. But more pressing on my mind was her safety, biblical worldview, and faith.
Did she know one in four college women have been a victim of rape or attempted rape?*
Could she confidentially defend her beliefs in a classroom of unbelievers?
What about when she’s lonely – would Jesus be enough?
If you are a parent of a recent grad, I don’t mean to freak you out. I have learned opportunities for instruction don’t stop just because our kids go to college. However, instilling a biblical worldview and unshakeable faith into our kids doesn’t happen overnight. It’s like building blocks; little by little life circumstances, training, and the years stack on top of each other. To that end, my hope for parents with any age children is to parent with a long-range perspective in view so when graduation day comes our children are better equipped for what’s next.
This means keeping in the forefront of our minds the gospel, along with the values, lessons, and knowledge we want to impart to our kids. Otherwise, it’s easy to get caught up in the here and now or to make off the cuff reactionary decisions. For instance, if attendance and involvement at church is a priority than it should shape our Saturday nights and weekend plans. But very quickly spend- the- nights and sports can take over and church becomes something we fit in when we can.
In word and in deed, we must be purposeful with our allotted time.
But the good news is summer usually provides a bit of a slower pace, or at least a change in schedule than the rest of the year. While this season can get away from us, I urge you right now at the beginning to think through redeeming summertime for the spiritual nourishment and overall well-being of your child and family.
This will look different for each family. But to start you thinking about what this might include, I’ve listed some things our family has done in the past or plans to do this summer.
1. More family dinners with purposed conversation or devotional time.
We use devotional books like my own Get Your Story Straight or take a book of the Bible, like John (what we are doing now) to slowly read and discuss together. We may not get through a whole lesson or chapter in one sitting but we’ve removed that pressure and just do what we can.
Some other useful resources to consider: kids’ catechism booklet (for memorization and also discussion of God’s truth), scripture memory, and conversation cards.
2. One night each week, have one family member pick an activity.
We found ourselves in a bad habit of everyone being on their separate devices in the evenings. So although we may all be home (even in the same room) we were not spending quality time together. The goal now is once a week to pick a night that works for everyone and for one person to choose an activity to do together. Some things we’ve done: a ping pong tournament, board games, movies, family walks, backyard pool time.
3. Use a movie or television series as a springboard for evaluating and discussing worldview.
I don’t think we have ever watched a show without my husband hitting the pause button at least once so we can evaluate a worldview or the root cause beneath a character’s words or action. This has been so valuable in shaping our kids’ thoughts, and truly exciting to see them spot things on their own now without our prompting.
4. Invite others into your home or host an impromptu driveway “party” with neighbors.
By this I mean invite other families, and/or adults to gather with your family and invite the kids to participate in the conversation. For both the purpose of learning hospitality and feeling comfortable conversing with people of all ages, this is one of our family values. Some of the most fruitful conversations have come from sitting around the table with other families. One night in particular with four adults and six teenagers present, we had a great discussion about identity and worth in Christ, which started simply by asking for the kids’ observations of others in their middle school and high school.
5. Implement chores, extra responsibilities and teaching tasks.
Throughout the year our kids always help with certain chores like feeding the dog and emptying the trash. We believe it is part of being a family member to serve in such ways. But again with busy schedules there are other things I do that they need to learn. With more time in the summer, they can practice things like doing laundry, cooking a meal, cleaning out the garage, scrubbing the bathroom, and (if you have a driver) taking the car to get an oil change or depositing checks at the bank. These are all things they need to know how to do, so help them out by giving them a head start.
6. Volunteer together.
Likely there are people in your very own church who need assistance, and if not, there are those in your neighborhood or community who do. Teens can prepare and deliver meals, mow yards, babysit children, or simply visit the lonely. I want my children looking outside of themselves to see where and how they can love others well, not just in the summer, but all the time. We must teach them to be mindful of others’ needs. In the process, acts of service in the church also reinforce the importance of being connected to the body.
I have no doubt you will think of additional opportunities. The idea is simply to redeem your time this summer. And who knows? Maybe come fall some of these things may become newly formed habits.