In the days following the celebration of the Fourth of July, the summer settles in. After a school year that has been hectic, and a schedule that probably dictated every minute of your family's day, the summer offers the opportunity to find a different rhythm of life and to enjoy other experiences that will strengthen important values in your life and that of your family.
Here are some tips to set a few healthy goals for the next several weeks.
1) Nature is a great teacher for the summer. Take walks, explore things in nature with your kids, from thunderstorms to tiny spider webs. Cook outside, learn about all the natural phenomena that you can experience in your area.
2) Since you have a more relaxed schedule, what about praying together as a family? You don't need to pray for an hour. If five minutes is all you can manage, do that. Find a time of the day that makes sense to start this new tradition. It could be as simple as each person offering special intentions, reading a short bible passage, and leading a prayer that responds to the intentions offered.
3) Set up a routine that includes a lot of play time but also reading time. Ask your children to name one thing they always wondered about and show them how to find out more about it by research in a library, on the internet, calling up experts in the area, watching documentaries, etc. Let them experience how learning can be fun and keep their minds curious. If they had particular trouble in a subject during the year, do a little tutoring through one-on-one quality time together. It makes a difference when you're not learning under pressure.
4) Talk together as a family about how the past year has gone. What was difficult or challenging? What did they really appreciate? Do they have new ideas about how to handle getting up and off to school? Supper? Sports? Sunday Mass? Over the next weeks talk about a set of provisional changes you'd like to try together.
5) Visit family and friends. Deepen relationships. Practice conversation. Encourage your children to spend time with people, rather than on their cell phone. Make sure the time is fun for them.
6) Adopt someone for the summer: a family, an older neighbor, a friend who lives alone, some kids down the street. Each week do something simple together with them: invite them to dinner, send them a small potted plant, bake them cookies, send them a promise of prayer....
7) Visit a museum, make a pilgrimage to a shrine, make a trip to explore a forest or river. Talk about what you saw after your visit.
8) Watch a movie together that leads to meaningful conversation afterward. Bring out some of the deeper messages, add some historical context if appropriate, explore how some of those messages can be valuable lessons for life.
May you have a blessed summer!