Summer Afternoons

Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

~Henry James

Yes, Henry James did have children. So why did he think summer afternoons were so beautiful? My recollection of summer afternoons is my children whining:  I’m bored; No, I don’t want to go out and play, I want to watch TV; I’m hungry. I often felt pressured to entertain my kids and to stop the whining by being the camp counselor in my own home. If you are you dreading those beautiful summer afternoons, consider the following:

  1. Richard Carlson, Ph.D., in his book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff says when kids whine, I’m bored, try responding with, “Great, be bored for a while.  It’s good for you.”  Carlson says that sometimes kids’  minds, just like their bodies, need an occasional break from stimulation. When you allow your mind to take a break, it comes back stronger, sharper, more focused and creative.
  2. Re-frame “just doing nothing” as something positive and good for your children as opposed to being merely a waste of time. David Elkind in his book, The Hurried Child, laments that children nowadays are not allowed their childhoods; they are pressured and rushed to perfect skills, achieve, and “ strive for some goal which will further their development.”  Like Carlson, he feels that children need many opportunities and much time for free, unstructured play in order to grow and develop in a healthy and balanced way.
  3. Barbara Coloroso, in her book Kids Are Worth It, states that “we as adults are often uncomfortable with being alone, quiet and reflective.”  If we see our child sitting quietly, we may encourage her to play or to find someone to do something with. In our society, quiet and solitary contemplation is not encouraged or valued.  And yet, for children to grow in inner discipline and to get to know and like themselves, they need time to be alone and be still.

With this new perspective in mind, it may be possible for parents to take a more relaxed view of summer vacation, and to feel comfortable in just letting their children be.  We do not always have to find entertainment for our children and, in fact, we will actually help them by encouraging them to be alone, quiet and still for periods of time.  Appreciating boredom may make this the best summer ever!

By Claire Gawinowicz
Certified Parenting Educator

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