After a long and difficult school year, our children are welcoming summer. Hopefully, you are too! Let this summer be a time of restoration for you and your children. Let your physical and your mental health be your focus. Many of your children will be participating in academic summer programs which will be important for them academically and socially- but make sure you also practice self-care as a family by making time to relax, create, play and connect.
Looking for ideas for a healthful and happy summer?
Get Outside!- Put your devices down and spend time outdoors as a family- walk, picnic, play sports, or swim together. New Jersey has wonderful parks and beaches to enjoy. Time spent in nature has both physical and mental health benefits for you and your children.
Read Together: Summer is a great time to help foster a love of reading for your children. If your child is young, grab a blanket, sit outside together and read stories that will delight and engage your child. Make trips to the library to find a world of books right at your fingertips. Create a summer book club for older children- choose a novel to read and discuss it each week. Explore the characters, plot and themes of the book. Explore which characters you are each most like? What would you do if you were in the same situation described in the story?
Make Art: Art is a wonderful way for children of all ages to express themselves. After the challenges of this past year, teach your child that art can be a way of showing feelings, and creativity can bring us joy. Encourage your child to focus on the process and not the outcome- there are no mistakes in art, only opportunities to grow creatively. Encourage your child to focus on the process of creating something as opposed to whether or not a drawing or painting is “good”.
Make Crafts Together: Crafting or building projects together is another way to have creative fun. Check out Pinterest for simple crafts. Look for ideas that will work with your child’s age and skill level. You can make crafts together that can hold special meaning- like a picture frame for a picture of a loved one or showing a special day. Look for ideas to incorporate your summer experiences into a craft. For example, collect seashells at the beach and preserve them with a special varnish called Modge Podge available at any craft store. Think of special ways to display your shells- this will preserve the shells but also the special memory of collecting them together.
Journal Together: Journaling is another way to help us practice mindfulness, to reflect and to process our emotions. Little ones can journal by drawing pictures of their day. Your child can dictate to you what the words should say. Older children can write their own entries and you can encourage themes to think about. You can also keep a gratitude journal as a family. Choose a journal from a store together or allow your child to decorate a notebook. Each day of the summer, you can record things you are grateful for, and share special experiences. This will help your family begin to practice gratitude as a way of life, a skill that will help all of you to have greater health and happiness.
Connect with Others: Take time this summer to connect with others safely. Many of us have spent many months being isolated from those we love. Spend time with friends and family however you feel comfortable – barbeque, have a game night or enjoy a picnic. Help your child reconnect with others too, as socializing is vital for healthy child development.
Prioritize Yourself! – However, you choose to rejuvenate this summer, make sure to prioritize yourself and your self- care. Do what helps you to feel calm and relaxed- this may mean enlisting help sometimes to take a little time to yourself to go for a walk, call a friend, or to take a restorative nap. Whatever you choose- remember that you will be your best as a parent when you make your emotional and physical health a priority!