Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Summer and kids
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
As the “dog days of summer” completely envelop us, my mind has wandered in the direction of … KIDS!
Though my own children are now adults, I fully remember how the middle of summer can begin to drag, which then can summon a whole host of issues: boredom on one end of the spectrum and activity overload on the opposite end.
Parents can become weary from trying to keep the kids active and from trying to create community so that idleness, boredom and electronics overload does not occur.
Trying to balance time so that kids have a scenario rich with intentional outcomes – time to be active, time to be quiet, time to be creative, time to be helpful – can wear down even the heartiest of parents. And if you are in the parenting boat alone, double or triple the responsibility is laid at your feet. WHEW!
But let’s turn the focus from “what kids want” to “what kids need” as we navigate the parenting waters – whether you have wee ones or teen ones. Dig deeper and recall the mission of what will enhance your kids’ chances of surviving life and not just surviving the dog days of summer.
- TIME AND ATTENTION AND ENERGY: Plain and simple, as well as cliché, kids need parents’ time – AND a focus of energy and attention that tells them they are important. This time can be spent focused on certain activities or merely when listening, learning and joining into their world.
- AFFIRMATION: TELL your children about their uniqueness, special qualities and lovable selves.
- ENCOURAGEMENT: The world can be a discouraging place much of the time – let your home be one of encouragement, support and laughter. In YOUR home, kids feel safe to stretch and reach beyond their current levels of accomplishment.
- A SENSE OF BELONGING: As with adults, children need to feel they belong – to their parents, to family, to a friend and with a group of friends. Instill this sense of belonging by promoting those qualities in your children that make them pleasant to be around – kindness, warmth, connectiveness, investment and interest in others. Also, provide communities for your children to be part of – scouts, dance, sports, music, drama, etc. This will provide them with a sense of accomplishment AND belonging!
- LEADERSHIP: Not only do children need solid and consistent leadership in the home, they also need opportunities to BE leaders. Affirm this quality in your children by providing opportunities for them to be “in charge” and show leadership at home.
- ADVENTURE: With each task you undertake with your children, allow them to experience it as an adventure – whether that is a trip to the store or a walk through the forest. Children can find adventure by examining a June bug! Allow them to share this with you, too.
- A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT: Not only do kids need to feel worthy of making things happen, they also need to feel gratification from the effort they expend. Praise their attempts, delight in the outcomes!
- HEROES: Face it – the world is not known for its share of healthy heroes and role models. Talk about this with your children – help them to associate with people of good character. Surround them with your own adult friends who are people of high values and good character. Talk about the “heroes” of the world – the good, the bad and the ugly – and why. Most importantly, be of “hero-quality” yourself. Have unshakeable standards and values, integrity and character.
- FUN, EXCITEMENT AND CREATIVITY: When home is a place where fun exists and laughter reigns, your kids will want to be there no matter how old they get or how tall they grow. Enough said!
- CONFIDENCE: Instill confidence by encouraging your children to try – to set goals, to develop action plans, to prepare and to strive. Remember, it is more important to try and fail than it is to fail to try! Praise them for their effort, for their courage. Give them the tools, the boost of confidence and the solid belief in their efforts – and before too long, their own self-belief will emerge!
- A SOLID FOUNDATION: A home that honors and worships God, which has a spiritual leader, which has parents who openly love and honor one another, is the best base upon which to build a family. If you are a single parent doing the job of two, your foundation of a Christ-centered family will summon great respect for you from the children you are raising.
So while we all endure the unusual heat that surrounds our nation and while we individually endure the dog days of summer, let’s remember: We can focus on what kids want and hope to hit the bull’s-eye in pleasing them. OR … we can focus also on what kids NEED – and give them tools for a lifetime.