Looking through Facebook and Instagram, or listening to other parents and Grandparents discuss their summer plans, and I become convinced that everyone, except for me, is having a Disney Summer.
“Disney Summers” are filled with sun drenched smiles, laughter and meaningful moments that can only be achieved on an expensive vacation or in a lavish beach house.
Meanwhile, parents who can’t afford these high-end vacations often tend to think that they’re missing out and depriving their children of a thrilling, brag-worthy summer adventure.
The expectations for a Norman Rockwell summer are on par with our expectations for the perfect Christmas! The pressure to create summer memories and stimulating educational experiences for our children, ultimately leads to our own exhaustion and frustration.
Parenting has become more challenging and complex, because we’ve wrongly equated how much we love our children with how much we are willing to spend on them. The rising expectations of a meaningful summer can be overwhelming for those of us on a tight budget or for parents who are working a full-time job.
Those picture perfect moments that you see all over your newsfeed might make you feel guilty for not providing your own child with these far-off adventures, but we have to understand that these trips do very little for their self-esteem and development. The truth is, parents often make the mistake of attempting to purchase an idealized moment for their children, but good times don’t have to come at a high price!
Good parenting is when your child is bored on the sofa and you allow him or her to complain, and then encourage your child to daydream and create an experience for themselves. Creativity thrives when it is nurtured. This happens when a child is given unstructured time and space. You may say, ‘Well my child is creative at summer camp” but camps are carefully managed and structured environments. The same can be said for vacations, where there is constant stimulation and activities planned throughout the day. Natural creativity often happens at home -on the sofa, in the kitchen in the backyard; these are the familiar, comfortable places that are the fertile ground for mental growth and creativity.
Summer vacations and sleep away camps have their place, and everyone needs to get away from the mundane routine of life, sometimes. However, parents need to lower the bar just a little to allow time for boredom and downtime. Most importantly, we shouldn’t feel guilty every time our child complains of boredom.
Try providing blank sheets of paper, a box of crayons, markers, or colored pencils for a start. Ask your kids to write their own adventure story and to make themselves the main character. Set up a tent in their bedroom or the living room and give them some books and a flashlight! For older children, it can be more challenging, but you can ask them to re-create scenes from their favorite movies and have another sibling film the production and then play it for a night of family entertainment.
Another way to take the pressure off of parents is to let your children play outdoors and limit screen time to allow for other interest. Overstimulation inhibits creativity and self-awareness and this is why parents are finding it increasingly difficult to get their children off of these devices. These gadgets are addicting, and as a smart phone user myself, I know how this is challenging for adults, too, especially since they keep us plugged-in and working even when we’re not at our desks.
If we want to break these bad habits, we have to learn to unplug and to encourage our children to do the same.
Let them be the masters of their own creativity and encourage them to have confidence in their own abilities, and then sit back and watch the show! After all, it is summertime – a time for adults and children to relax and slow down!
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Karen Stabley ATR BC