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Using Summer Break to Build Family Relationships
By Kari Ure, Extension Assistant Professor
The bell to dismiss school for summer break brings both excitement and stress. Students, parents, and educators welcome the end of a school year. However, summer break can bring stress to parents and to family relationships. It is easy to get overwhelmed with summer expectations and changes in family schedules and routines.
Consider making plans in the following three areas. Involving every family member in the discussion and decisions can increase the commitment to and excitement for family summer plans.
- Play together: Planning recreational activities and summer vacations can be overwhelming. It is easy to feel that money and time put limits on family play time. Search your local area for free or low-cost activities and events. There are several close to home activities that build family relationships. Hidden Gems Family Fun Guides are a great resource for family activities and can be found at https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/hiddengems/
- Work together: Working together provides family members time to connect while accomplishing a task. One summer activity that provides an excellent work opportunity is home gardening. Research shows home gardening improves family relationships while also improving individual physical and mental wellness. One study found home gardening positively affected adolescent dietary habits, mental wellness, and family connection (van Lier et al., 2017).
- Eat together: Increased schedule flexibility can help build family relationships, but keeping proper structure and routine in place for individual and family wellness is important. One way to keep consistency is to focus on eating meals as a family. The physical benefits of a healthy meal are important, but emotional health and family wellness are also developed by consistently enjoying meals together. Focus on positive communication during meals and create a distraction-free, trusting environment. Consistently eating meals as a family has been shown to decrease family conflict, improve individual happiness, and increase emotional family connectedness (Armstrong-Carter & Telzer, 2020).
Meaningful summer activities build family relationships. Thoughtful planning can keep summer break exciting for parents and children.
For other helpful ideas visit:
- Armstrong-Carter, E., & Telzer, E. H. (2020). Family meals buffer the daily emotional risk associated with family conflict. Developmental Psychology, 56(11), 2110–2120. https://doi-org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1037/dev0001111
- Lawrence, S. D., & Plisco, M. K. (2017). Family mealtimes and family functioning. American Journal of Family Therapy, 45(4), 195–205. https://doi-org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1080/01926187.2017.1328991
- Rueg, K., (2018, May 28). How to have a successful summer: Building deeper connections with your kids. Nationwide Children’s. Retrieved from https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2018/05/how-to-have-a-successful-summer-building-deeper-connections-with-your-kids
- van Lier, L. E., Utter, J., Denny, S., Lucassen, M., Dyson, B., & Clark, T. (2017). Home gardening and the health and well-being of adolescents. Health Promotion Practice, 18(1), 34–43. https://doi-org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1177/1524839916673606