Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Every summer our children are released from school for almost three months. This is an ideal time to bless them with extra time and attention at home. Unfortunately, many families forget to plan summer activities with their children and get "caught up" in their own work pressures and other time consuming duties. As a parent of three grown children and a pediatrician for sixteen years, I strongly recommend committing as much time as you can find in your life to your children throughout their summer. Time is the major necessary ingredient to build lasting, loving relationships and memories among family members. Summer is the best opportunity to find this extra time. Wise parents plan lots of relaxed, fun, family activities.

When I was a child growing up in Opelousas in the 50's, my dad was a busy, overworked pediatrician. He worked 12 to 14 hour days, often seven days a week. One thing he did find time for, however, was a nice long summer vacation with the whole family. These three to four week trips in our airstream trailer are my happiest memories of childhood. I can remember almost every state we went through and every park we camped in. Somehow the relaxed nature of a summer vacation becomes a magic time for a young child. I strongly recommend placing summer vacation together as a family as a high priority. Where you go and what you do is not important. The important thing is sharing the relaxed fun time together as a family and getting involved with your children. If a trip is not possible then a simple outing together in town or a local park will do. Be enthusiastic planning it and watch your kids get excited.

Vacation time is probably the best teaching time we have with our kids. There is more time to talk, listen, observe, sing, laugh, and just generally have fun playing together. Shared meals can become a great teaching time. Mental games can be anything you want them to be while you are driving in a car or seated in a restaurant. Making sandcastles on the beach, hiking in the woods or mountains, or fishing in a stream or lake can become your children's happiest memories and activities your family will return to over and over again.

I strongly recommend reading with your children. This can start at any age, even infancy. Kids love to be read to and to read along with their parents even during their teen years. The most inspiring book my son and I ever read together was a great book called The Power of One by Bruce Courteney. It is a story of a young White South African boy who grows up without a father and has to survive amidst the abuse of other white children, who are very prejudiced. He befriends himself with the Black South Africans and their struggle and sets his goal to become the welterweight champion of the world. The book is a fascinating journey of overcoming the odds, noble heroism, and goal setting. Dozens of other inspirational books have been shared with our three kids by my wife and I. They were as much a joy for us to read even if they happened to be a second or third reading as they were for our children. Read with your children everyday and especially every opportunity you get this summer.

Finally, besides recreation time and reading with your children the best advice I can give parents is to pray with your children. Summer is a wonderful time to grow spiritually as we slow down and listen to God talking to us. Share daily prayers and worship together weekly as a family.

Share a spiritual book or goal this summer and let your children ask the inevitable questions all children wonder about as they are growing up. They will surely grow wiser as they strive to learn the answers. Summer is a truly blessed time for children and for parents. Take advantage of it and make it an awesome, memorable summer for your whole family.