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Making Space for Each Other This Summer

Summer’s in full swing—and like a lot of families, you’re making the most of the time. That means doingeverything together, right? Right?! Mission trips, camping, baseball, movie nights, vacation Bible school … We have to cram in as much togetherness as we can because it won’t last!

If that sounds familiar, take a breath. We can become so focused on connecting with our spouse and kids that we lose sight of their individuality. And for the introverts in your family, especially, asking them to be “on” all the time is a recipe for disaster.

Yes, it’s important that we teach our kids what healthy compromise looks like and how to graciously try new things or set aside our desires for the good of another. But it’s possible to strengthen family bonds while also respecting how God has wired each person.

  • Be honest about your preferences for interaction and space, and help your loved ones voice their unique needs. Does everyone like baseball except one of your kids? What if he’d be content to go to a game with you if he could read a book? It’s OK to redefine what “together” looks like.
  • Sit down as a family and plan activities you’ll do together—and when you’ll block off free time. Your introvert might dismiss a mission trip as quickly as your extrovert would veto reading silently for an hour. Nevertheless, all personality types benefit from learning to navigate situations they wouldn’t necessarily choose on their own.
  • Reinforce the difference between quietude and manipulative silence—between openness and insensitivity.  Kids (and adults!) need to realize that they can’t use their personality as an excuse to give someone the “silent treatment” or to be brash and hurtful “for the sake of honesty.”
  • Remember that even fun can cause stress if your family feels the weight of expectations.  We might plan the “perfect” summer, but too many variables are outside our control. Instead of pushing for tangible accomplishments or Instagram-worthy pics, find joy in simple things—and help your family do the same. A spontaneous afternoon watching a caterpillar spin its cocoon can be just as edifying as a scheduled trip to the city museum.

Summer offers extended time to reconnect as a family—to laugh and play and create, to sleep in and sleep hard and sleep under the stars, to watch robins and grow gardens and share bounty with neighbors.

Still, we’re only human. Nerves can get irritated when we’re not prepared to address the needs of our people—body, mind, and heart. It’s all part of learning to love one another well and live in a larger community.

For more ideas, we recommend Joanne Kraft’s book Just Too Busy: Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical and Focus on the Family’s broadcast with guest Kathi Lipp Fun Ideas to Make Your Summer Memorable. Both are available through Focus’ Online Store.