As summer comes, families anticipate more time together -- more exploration and more fun.
As parents think of ways to make the most of summer, deciding the goal in advance can determine whether family bonds diminish or grow. As parents plan, they should remember to consider whether the goal is entertainment or engagement.
Entertainment focuses on keeping kids busy and having fun. Generally, entertainment normalizes children becoming passive consumers of the efforts of others with their satisfaction as the measure of whether the efforts are worthwhile. The difficulty becomes keeping up with the naturally increasing appetite of people who sit back and see what parents can do next. Expectations continually increase as does, often, dissatisfaction.
Even more significantly, children often get the message that parents are filling the day with activity just to get kids "out of parents' hair." Because children so deeply crave connection to their parents, when parents try to substitute activity for connection, kids' expectations continue to rise because they've gotten the message "This activity should make you happy," and when it doesn't fill the connection hole, they determine they just need a better activity. The entertainment focus thus sets everyone up for disappointment and a pretty lousy summer.
See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.