During the school year, kids have classes, homework, sports, clubs, and other extracurricular responsibilities that take up so much of their time (and yours). However, much of that is typically placed on hold during the summer. Because children have more time at home during the summer, these few short months are the perfect time to find meaningful ways to connect with your children and strengthen family relationships. Here are a few suggestions for things you can do this summer vacation to connect and deepen relationships with your kids!

1. Be there

When you’ve set aside time to be together, really BE together. Talk with each other face to face and pause the technology. Being there for someone is so much more than just physical presence or proximity (though that’s usually a great start). Both mental and emotional attentiveness is important! Disconnect other things and connect with your kids.

2. Get out of the house

Go somewhere! Sometimes all one needs is a change of scenery. While precious moments can be made in your own home, special memories can also be shared in the car, on a plane, outside, attending an event, having a picnic, bike riding, or anything else you can think up to do. Some of my favorite family memories were made as a kid going with the family to the coast or traveling across states in the family van. Whether you’re bringing a suitcase or just a sack lunch, take advantage of summer vacation and take some time out!

3. Serve others

Kids and adults alike can learn invaluable lessons about life, love, and giving when involved in service. Opportunities are everywhere! They can include visiting a rest home, doing yard work for someone else, or helping someone pack and move. They can also happen within the walls of your own home; for example, writing notes for siblings, showing an act of gratitude to a parent, or cheering up a friend. Service can bring good feelings to both those who serve and those served. What better way to connect with your children than joining in a great cause to show love to someone else?

4. Spend time outdoors

Mother Nature holds countless opportunities for recreation, exercise, and relaxation. Making time to spend outside can be beneficial not only for relationships but for health too! There’s bike riding, horseback riding, hiking, jogging, going on picnics, birding, playing at a park, and so many other activities. If you’re able, you may even want to consider a trip to an outdoor location that may not be commonly seen in your hometown such as a forest, the beach, or a desert. These outdoor adventures can bring memorable sights and experiences both you and your children can share and enjoy together.

5. Establish fun summer traditions

When my mother was a kid, her father would take them out for root beer floats after especially hard workdays. She carried on that tradition with her own family, and I have many fond memories as a kid/teen enjoying root beer floats as a family in the yard after a hard afternoon of yard work. Establishing traditions can be a very special way to connect with your children. Traditions are meant to be memorable, and they can bring a sense of unity to a family. This summer, why not come up with some new traditions together? Ask your children what traditions they think would be fun. They could be goofy or serious, often or occasional. Nonetheless, they could give the family wonderfully fun times to laugh about and look forward to.

6. Read together

Grab a glass of water and warm up those character voices because reading out loud together is a great way to connect with your kids. Smaller children may enjoy pointing at picture books or listening to short chapter books, while older kids and teens may become engrossed in classics, adventures, or mysteries. Now that the textbooks are finally closed, open up some “fun books” and enjoy reading for pleasure as a family!

7. Work on projects together

Learning to work is an incredibly valuable skill and trait in an individual. Parents can teach kids to work by having their kids help them with projects at home. Also, allowing kids to choose a project they want to accomplish is one way to better understand them and help them succeed at something they enjoy and want to succeed at.

8. Attend summer events

Summertime is never empty of events to go to if you look for them. Sing along and dance at a music concerts. Grab a funnel cake and ride the Ferris wheel at the county or state fair. Experience a variety of fresh produce, baked goods, and neat trinkets and knick-knacks at the farmer’s market.

9. Record your memories!

Remember the good times you’ve made as a family by capturing these moments in journals, photos, scrapbooks, blogs, or other social media sites. That way you and your kids can look back on these experiences and remember how much they really meant.
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