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With school around the corner, we have to face the reality that summer is coming to an end. However, there’s still time for some last hurrahs before your downtime looks like Googling how to teach math… Bond with your sweet family by doing some or all of these 7 free things together before summer ends! No need to let these last few days slip by without squeezing in some free fun for the family!

1. Be Explorers For The Day!

Soak in some sunshine and quality time with your family. Not sure where to start? AllTrails has 100,000+ trails listed all over with reviews and photos so you can find one perfect for your family. If you have some paper and a broken crayon laying around, bring it along to make an etch. Have your kiddo(s) pick out a tree or rock they think would have the wildest texture, then put the piece of paper on it and rub the crayon on top (preferably unwrapped and horizontally).

While you’re out adventuring in the great outdoors, answer these questions:

  • What is your favorite part about exploring?
  • What do you see that is interesting or fascinating to you? 
  • If you were going to bury treasure out here, where would you bury it?

2. Become Champions of the FTF Family Challenge!

This 30 Day Family Activity Challenge is packed full of fun for the whole family! If you love a good belly laugh, some friendly competition, or just some good ol’ quality time with the ones you love most, this is perfect for you. Of course, you may not finish it before the summer ends, but you can continue the challenge into the school year. You can download it for free and have some fun sitting in your back pocket. With a little help from the challenge, you keep your relationship with your family a priority as life picks back up. Be flexible with your schedule; you can do a challenge week or every other weekend.

After you all do a few activities together, ask:

  • What activity has been your favorite so far and why?
  • What’s your favorite part of family time?
  • Have you learned anything new about yourself, like discovering you’re good at something you hadn’t tried before or perhaps that you don’t like something?

3. Picnic Together!

Simple, but always a favorite. Throw together a family meal and pick your favorite spot. Maybe for you it looks like driving to a local park, a lookout, or sitting in the yard. If it feels nice out, instead of dinner and a show, make it lunch and a game and bring along a family favorite board game to play when you’re done eating.

Conversation starters:

  • What are three words you’d use to describe yourself?
  • How do you know we love you?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?

4. Be Expressionist Artists.

Now, I’m not talking oil canvas painting with classical music playing in the background—I’m talking expressionist like using a piece of paper and some sort of drawing/painting utensil to express yourself. Think of it like a picture journal.

You can use whatever is on hand—crayons, watercolors or even pens! You will be painting your thoughts about what these last few months have been like. If we’re honest, COVID-19 has changed the way daily life has been lived for the last few months. Putting those feelings into words can be hard for kids. Nonetheless, reflecting on what has happened is healthy and a great way to make sure you all are on the same page!

Sit down at the table or lay the art supplies out on the floor and paint/draw what the last few months has felt like. Here are some prompts: Draw/paint…

  • How have you been spending your days?
  • What feelings and emotions have you experienced?
  • The hardest part of quarantine?
  • The best part of quarantine?
  • If your kids are a little older (8+) suggest drawing a comic strip to show their experience. 

Once you all have finished, ask these questions:

  • Tell me what’s going on in your picture?
  • Why’d you choose to draw that?
  • How are you feeling now?

5. Water Day!

Get ready to make a splash and go to the nearest body of water before summer ends. Whether it’s a creek, lake, ocean, river, pond, pool or hose in the yard, take advantage of it being hot outside and jump in! 

You can do so many things with water!

  • Swim.
  • Build a dam with rocks at the creek.
  • Play tag with the ocean by running as close to the waves as you can and then running back to shore without getting your ankles wet.
  • Skip rocks.
  • Feed ducks or fish with some stale bread or cereal.
  • Splash contest! (Big or small.)
  • Critter Count Contest. (See how many different critters you all can find!)

6. Movie Night!

Lights, Camera, Action! Take it up a notch and make a movie ticket for your kids and give it to them in the morning so they have something to look forward to all day. You can make it a “dine-in” movie and eat dinner while watching the movie. When it comes time for the movie, show your kids their seats, whether it be the couch, epic fort you encouraged them to make that day to watch the movie in or a pallet of pillows. Make it feel special. Presentation is everything. If you’re excited, they will be too!

Questions to ask after:

  • What was the best part of the movie? Why?
  • Would you have done anything differently than (insert main character’s name here)?
  • What character do you think I am most like?

7. Silly Day Out.

Run errands or go to the park dressed up in costumes or goofy clothes. Take pictures and share laughs wherever you go. Teach your kids not to care what others think about them and to enjoy making the most out of the mundane things like grocery shopping. Not only is it a great lesson, but it will definitely be entertaining.

Questions to ask:

  • What was the most fun part?
  • Do you think other people were having as much fun as we are?

It’s good to be reminded that making some of the best memories cost nothing but time. Taking the time to enjoy being a family and having fun together is so important for the relationship you all have together. The more fun you have, the more you’ll love to be together. 

✦ If you do any of these ideas, we would love to see! Tag us on Facebook and/or Instagram and have fun!

Bonus Blogs to Checkout:

When I was a teen, summer meant one thing: work. And lots of it. I had 2-3 jobs lined up before school was out each summer because my goal was to make as much money as possible. Part of my motivation was to put gas in my car, pay for any eating out, and try to save for college expenses. The other motivation was that my parents believed working would help me learn to be more responsible and give me other necessary skills in order to be successful in life. 

With COVID-19 essentially slamming the door on the majority of summer jobs for teens, we face some challenges. The escape out of the isolation that many teens hoped for, the earning potential, and the learning opportunities that parents know come from working have been swiped right out of their hands. 

In fact, according to a Pew Research Center survey, young people ages 16-24 are more likely to face layoffs due to Coronavirus. Why? Because they make up 24% of employment in the restaurant, retail, and transportation industries. The lack of work leaves behind the opportunity to learn about working with others, being responsible, and accountable to someone other than parents. It may keep them from experiencing a sense of accomplishment from a hard day’s work.

Now what? With Plan A out the window, this is a great opportunity to help your teen put Plan B into motion. In spite of all that COVID-19 has taken from us, there are still plenty of things teens can do this summer. These things can make the time go by faster, but also help them continue to learn the skills they need to master before heading out on their own.

Here are four ways you can help teach your teen responsibility this summer in spite of COVID-19:

1. Set clear expectations for the summer.

Even though many options have been taken off the table, ask your teen to come up with a plan for their summer. The structure still matters and makes a huge difference in a teen’s mindset and motivation. Exercise, some type of work, help with household chores, time with friends in a socially distant way, things they need to learn to do for themselves such as laundry, cooking, managing money, and maintaining a vehicle, along with family time are important parts of their plan.

2. Help them think through opportunities that do exist.

Think yard work, shopping for those who cannot get out, being a nanny or manny for parents who have lost childcare and summer camp opportunities, odd jobs, or construction. Don’t forget about those special projects you or others have been putting off or need help doing. Part of the goal here is to help them think outside the box about what’s possible during a difficult time.

3. Encourage them to look at their strengths and identify what they are passionate about.

Are there online experiences they could take advantage of to further enhance their skill set and make them more marketable in the future? Can they take a distance-learning course to help them finish school faster or lessen their class load down the road?

4. Ask them to take on more household responsibilities to give you some relief while providing practical experience.

It may feel like more of a headache in the beginning, but these are all things they need to be able to do once they are out on their own. Grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking and/or house cleaning or making household repairs could be ways they can step up and assist in a big way if they aren’t already. As a bonus, additional teen responsibilities at home is a helpful reminder that in times of crisis, everybody has something valuable to contribute to the good of the family unit.

Obviously, we are all dealing with the unknown here and looking for ways to navigate the constantly changing landscape. Undoubtedly, there is a tremendous financial and emotional strain on teens and adults because of the limitations we’re dealing with and certainly, we need to be sensitive to thisEven in the midst of chaos, circumstances often present themselves that turn out to be positive in the end. I’m hopeful that these tips can help you prepare your teen to handle any situation that comes their way and to help them learn responsibility even in the midst of a pandemic.

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Parents, if there’s ever a time to sympathize with your children, now is it. If there’s one thing kids look forward to, it’s summertime. Think about it: summer camps, trips, vacations, jobs, and enrichment opportunities. 

Every couple of days, my teenage daughter comes to me with a realization of something she won’t get to do this summer because of COVID-19. She’s already missed one summer camp, the family reunion is not going to happen, and a summer program she was hoping to take part in is off the table. Oh, and she wanted to start her babysitting business this summer.

She’s bummed about it. Kids all over are bummed about it. About 20 million children, adolescents, and adults in the U.S. attend camps each year. Not this year. When your children are coming to the realization that COVID-19 is about to “ruin” their summer, that’s where you as a parent must step in and help your kids process what they may be feeling. Here are some ways you can help your disappointed kids. 

Deal with yourself first.

This is a blow to parents as well. A) We may hate that they might be home all day. B) We hate what they are missing out on, too. You may experience your own anger, frustration, sadness, or some other emotion. Identify and own it. Then do what you must to address it and move forward

Provide space for your child to express their emotions.

Your child may be experiencing disappointment, sadness, grief, anger, or any other emotions. You may see it on their face, in their actions, or in their responses. Asking them if they are disappointed because of summer cancellations with a soft, caring tone, or simply telling them it’s okay to be sad, gives them permission to experience their emotions

Empathize with and validate their feelings.

Regarding the cancellation of summer plans, child development and parenting expert, Dr. Deborah Gilboa says in TODAY that parents should tend to their child’s feelings but not put boundaries on their feelings. You don’t have to fix their emotions. Sometimes an “I understand” or “It’s okay that you feel that way” is all that’s in order. Your own stories of dealing with disappointments can provide your children with some comfort and help your kids process what’s going on.

Discuss what they are really missing.

It’s not just that they’re missing the activity of the summer. Kids look forward to reconnecting with family and friends they only see in the summer. The summer is a chance to explore their own personal interests. For teens, it might be the freedom that comes with having a job and, more specifically, having money. Students use the summer to do things to boost their resumé. Asking them, “What do you miss about not being able to do a particular activity?” can help your child think through what they enjoy about the summer and what it is they are really missing.

Look for alternatives.

Dr. Gilboa says that there are four elements to having a fun summer: independence, connection, purpose, and fun. What are some alternative ways to help your children experience those four elements that they often get from summer camps, jobs, and trips? S’mores, water fun, camping in the backyard, movie marathons, unstructured play, Zoom game nights with friends, gardening, building something, learning something new? Be realistic, but also be open to new challenges. It can make your summer memorable. This 30 Day Challenge can provide you some great alternatives. 

Keep Loving ‘Em Through.

This isn’t all one conversation for one setting. Having one conversation doesn’t mean the emotions are gone and won’t come back. And it doesn’t mean that your efforts to make it a meaningful summer are futile if they still experience sadness or grief at other times throughout the summer. Ongoing conversations can help your kids process ongoing emotions.

Your kids may be experiencing loss and uncertainty. They may be worried about how this affects their chances at college admissions and scholarships or feel like they are losing their childhood. Your consistent presence and willingness to both sit with and help them adjust to a different kind of summer can provide a positive memory of how to deal with disappointment that will serve them well for years to come.

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Summer is here! Normally, everybody would be cheering loudly saying, “Bring it on!” This year, however, plenty of folks feel like summer has been here for the last two months. Now that summer is really here, all of the plans parents thought they had for their kids have likely been thrown out the window because of COVID-19.

With few or no summer camp options, social distancing at pools, many attractions not opening until mid-summer and limited access to child care options, parents definitely have a challenge on their hands if they’re trying to make summer plans. You may be wondering what in the world your family can do in the middle of all that. If so, here are some helpful hints for creating a summer to remember forever for your kids!

Hold a family meeting. Straight out of the gates, hold a family meeting to brainstorm what’s possible within the framework parents have established. Have a little fun with this. No idea is too crazy when you are brainstorming. And who knows? A crazy idea might lead to something that is totally doable.

Come up with a schedule. Sheer exhaustion from shifting to online-everything may tempt you to let summer be a free-for-all with no schedule. However, while having no structure may sound like a blessing to you and your kids, ultimately it can be a real curse. Making a schedule helps keep everybody grounded and in the know about what’s coming next.

Be intentional about creating opportunities for connection. Hanging out in the same house or even the same room isn’t the same as actually doing something to connect with your children. If that sounds like just one more thing to put on your already overwhelming “to-do list,” one easy option is to use First Things First’s 30-Day Family Challenge. Each day has a different fun, quick and easy activity for you and your children to do together.

Get active. Since everybody has probably had their fill of screen time, try going old school! Do some of these things for fun: puzzles, Nerf gun battles, water gun fight, riding bikes, let your kids create a scavenger hunt for the entire family to do, investigate how to make your own Slip ‘N Slide, play board games, Spoons, Charades, make a house of cards, go fishing, learn how to play chess or checkers, camp in the backyard and make s’mores, build a fort or treehouse, play marbles or jacks.

Encourage learning. During your family brainstorm meeting, ask your kids what they would like to learn over the summer. They may want to learn how to cook, change the oil in a car, repair a bike, make a piñata, or find out more about your family history. They may want to take a virtual vacation to an exotic location and learn about the culture, geography and things that are unique to it. Take it a step further and plan your meals, clothing or other activities around that location for the week. Study photography. Read a book together like “Cheaper by the Dozen.” You may even want to invest in some grade-level activity books just to keep your kids sharp.

Plant a garden outside or play around with growing food indoors. There are plenty of free tutorials available if you are new to gardening. Another option is to ask an experienced neighbor for a hand. You can also experiment with different things such as rooting the bottom of a celery stalk and then planting it. You could also cut a pepper in half, then scrape and plant the seeds to see if they will sprout. (Spoiler alert, they should!)

Not all of these activities would require hands-on supervision from parents at all times. In fact, some of them could be child-led or done independently. That would not only give parents a break, but it would help to build self-confidence and independence in your child.

One thing is for sure, one way or the other, this summer will be one for the books. It will either go down in history as the most boring summer on record or the summer our plans got turned upside down so we decided to make lemonade out of the lemons tossed our way. It may not be the easiest summer you’ve ever had, but it could become one of your best summers yet.

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This summer is going to look a little different than most because of COVID-19. Although some camps and travel may be canceled, the quality time your family looks forward to in the summer doesn’t have to be. Fun and exciting experiences create lasting memories that help you draw closer to your loved ones. 

Let’s make the most of this summertime! Here are 5 ways summertime can help your family bond:

If you were planning a trip that got canceled, explore the areas around you! 

Find a way to recreate the vacation you were planning as a staycation. This will not only teach your kids how to turn a situation around, but you’ll get the creative juices flowing. If you were going to the beach, go to a lake. If you were going to go skiing, try sledding down a hill with a cardboard box.

Take a look at our Parenting Toolkit for the Best Summer Ever with your Family!

Enjoy fun and intentional quality time. Each day has an activity with a moral to the story and an opportunity to talk through the value taught. Not only will you bond over playing together, but while talking about the things that matter most to having a happy, healthy family! Here’s where you can find the Parenting Toolkit.

Routines, rituals, and structure can help your family bond! 

They create an environment that is predictable and provides security. If your kids can depend on and are looking forward to the activities that happen daily and weekly, this will keep you close all summer.

For example, maybe Friday nights become pizza night. If you’re not working from home, your kids might expect a text or call from you at noon to check-in. If you’re working from home, maybe you all plan to eat lunch together. Maybe you can come up with a fun summertime morning tradition.

Give your kids unstructured playtime. (Sometimes go outside and play with them!)

According to the Gottman Institute, “Play is how kids learn all the things and develop all the stuff. This means leaving time each day for straight-up unstructured, kid-controlled, exploration of the world kind of play.” When you set aside time for your kids to take the lead, you’re actively encouraging their curiosity and imagination, demonstrating that you trust them, and helping them build character. 

Other studies show that children who spend time playing outside become more adventurous and open to new experiences. These children develop skills that help them make more friends. Children use their imaginations to recreate their own world and because of this, they’re able to hold their own attention longer. 

Try new things together!

You have an opportunity to step into your kid’s passions, interests, and skills. Do they want to learn to play guitar? Let them put on a performance for you! Does the night sky interest them? Plan a constellation picnic and (tele)scope out some stars together with your favorite snacks. Do they want to work at drawing? Have an in-house art exhibition with fun snacks. Show an interest in what your kids are interested in. This is an awesome way to connect with your kids by having something to ask questions about and cultivate conversations.

Even though a lot of things have been canceled and summer looks different than you may have hoped for, you can be intentional and creative with your time. Enjoy making new memories together and maybe even start some new summer traditions. Have a great summer!

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Routines and consistency are vital to the growth of our children. Research tells us this and experience confirms it. But you know what? A global pandemic tends to be a routine-buster! Nothing rocks our daily flow more than the sudden closing of schools and businesses. 

So what did we do? Families had to make adjustments to meet a new temporary normal. Bedtimes shifted. Morning routines looked radically different. Navigating a “normal” day became a balance of school, work, video conferencing, and the ever-continuing struggle of screen time. 

For us, our kids’ bedtime shifted later in hopes that they might sleep a little later in the morning (that was a fail). The morning rush and commute was gone. Screen times increased for our kids, partially due to school, but mostly to help us get work done. Spring baseball was just a memory. Our biggest adjustments really were figuring out how to both work remotely and help our second grader with school. 

But here we are, eight weeks in and businesses and restaurants are reopening, childcare centers that may have been closed or limited to essential personnel are taking steps to welcome all of their kids back. Not only that, but the school year has ended, and for many of us, summer camps are now nonexistent. Virtual learning at least provided some sort of structure for our kids. My son knew he had assignments to do daily and when his video calls were… and he reminded us often. 

Now it’s time to shift routines again and get back on track. In just a few short weeks, my wife returns to work at a childcare center. My 4-year-old will also return to her childcare center sometime in the month of June. My son needs some structure for the summer as I still work remotely. So, what do we change? How do we return to some sense of the routines that we had before? 

Questions to Ask to Help You Get Back on Track

As we discussed this as a family, we asked ourselves some questions.

  • What do we begin to shift now to prepare our kids to return to a new schedule?  Bedtimes, for instance, need to adjust. Take gradual steps to resume a pre-quarantine bedtime. The same could be said for morning routines. We can make small steps to reclaim some of our routines in this area starting with what time we all get up. Abrupt changes are difficult for everyone—but especially for kids.
  • What have we started doing during this quarantine that we want to keep? Our kids have had tremendously more free, creative play. We have spent more evenings around the fire pit. More time has been spent in the hammock. How do we protect these things that have brought so much joy? 
  • What do we want to learn over the summer? As I look for ways to fill my son’s days, I’ll start by asking him what he wants to learn more about. What can we explore as a family that will continue their learning? Just because summer is over doesn’t mean learning has to end, but it can be fun learning experiences.

Prepare for Transition to Get Back on Track

As your family begins to discuss this next transition, here are 3 recommendations I have:

  1. Get your mindset right. Mentally prepare for transitions in your routines. Get ready for the battles that you may have to fight.
  2. Get your plan together. Have a family meeting to discuss this time of transition. (Check out this blog for some great ideas.) What does your specific situation require? This is a great opportunity to reinforce with kids why routines are important and why we have to also be flexible and make changes sometimes. 
  3. Get tough skin. (If you don’t already have it.) Let’s face it—kids don’t like change. Many of us adults don’t either. You may have had weeks with much less structure, but now we have to make more changes. Not everyone will be happy, but that’s okay. 

★ Nothing says that we have to return to the same routine as we had before the quarantine. Take this opportunity to evaluate what you as a family really want to do and what you value. You don’t have to make life as busy as it was before. ★

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How is it that summer just started, yet the school supplies are already out in stores? In a few short weeks that will feel like they fly by, your baby will be headed to kindergarten. At this realization, in the midst of a little freak-out and hidden tears, parents will try to put on a brave face as they leave their little one in someone else’s care.

Preparing for that day is important not only for your child, but for you as well. A month may seem like a long way off, but when it comes to establishing new routines and rituals, it’s actually the right time to put things in motion.

Bedtime: For example, if bedtime has been at 8:30 or later during the summer months, but a 7:30 bedtime will be in place during the school year, moving bedtime up in 15-minute intervals from now until the school year starts will help your child adjust and keep the drama about it still being light outside to a minimum. As a side note, blackout curtains might be a great investment.

Routines: Consider what morning and evening routines will be like, especially if this is your first child to head off to school. It can be unsettling for children when everything is changing, so it’s helpful to think about routines and rituals like a security blanket. Children find real comfort in predictability. If you put things into motion now, it will help your child feel more confident on that first day of school. For instance, practice getting up, getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast and figuring out the best order to accomplish those tasks and any others that must be done before leaving for school. Adapting your evening routine to how things will be during the school year will help as well. 

After school: Being at school and holding it together all day long is exhausting. Your child might come home from school and want to take a nap or they might have a meltdown, especially as they are adjusting to their new routine. Comfort them and help them put words to their emotions. In time they will adapt and adjust.

Independence: Remind yourself repeatedly to let your child do for themselves what they are capable of doing. Things like dressing themselves, putting on their shoes and velcroing or tying them, going to the bathroom, pulling their pants up and even buckling a belt are important to know how to do. If they are planning to buy their lunch at school, let them practice carrying a tray with their food and drink from somewhere in the kitchen to the table. That balancing act can be a little tricky. If they are taking their lunch, teach them how to pack it themselves. If they are riding the school bus, practice walking to and from the bus stop together.

Practice: Make practicing these things fun by turning them into a relay race or a game. When you do that, you’ll be giving them a strong foundation to stand on as they head to school.

Organization: Work with your child to find a location in your home where all things school-related live like backpacks, homework or notes that need to be signed. Helping them get in the habit of placing things in one location will make mornings easier for everyone.

Read: Start reading with your child daily (if you aren’t already). Even if you aren’t a fantastic reader, just holding a book, pointing out pictures, colors, numbers and words, or teaching your child to turn the pages from right to left will help prepare them for kindergarten.

Other adults: If you have told your child they don’t have to listen to anyone but you, now is the time to change that. When your child is at school they will need to be able to listen and follow instruction from their teacher and others. Additionally, if you have never left them in someone else’s care, try to arrange some time between now and the first day of school where they are in the care of other trusted adults. It is good for them to know that others can take care of their needs, and teachers will appreciate that you have helped them practice listening and following instructions from other adults.

Technology: This year will be different for your child, so consider a technology plan for your home when school starts. They will be expected to sit, listen and engage in activities, but screen time  is probably the last thing they need when they get home. Instead, playing outdoors in the fresh air can help them release stress and relax.

Emotions: While you might be excited about your little one reaching this milestone, it would also be normal for you to feel some anxiety. Most of our children can read us like a book. If you are feeling uptight about the beginning of school and trying to hold that inside, your child will likely pick up on this and think you are not OK or that you do not want them to go to school. Acknowledging that and talking with other parents who are ahead of you on the journey could be extremely helpful to you and your child. 

Thinking about all that needs to happen before school starts may feel a bit overwhelming. The good news is, if you start now, you will already have your routine down by the time school starts. Both you and your child can head into the first day of school with confidence and great expectations for the school year.

At the end of summer, there are many transitions in the making. 

Kindergartners are attending school for the first time. Last year’s fifth-graders will go on to middle school. Eighth-graders who were at the top of the pecking order are entering high school and essentially are now the little fish in the big pond. Then there are the seniors – some of whom cannot wait for graduation, while others want to take their sweet time getting there.

Some parents can’t wait for the transitions to occur. Others, however, secretly grieve as they see time flying by, wishing it would stand still for just a bit longer.

No matter where you fall on the transition continuum, the air is typically charged with emotions from excitement, fear and anxiety to anticipation and perhaps feeling overwhelmed. Those with middle and high school-age teens get the added hysteria of hormones in the mix.

As a family, it is possible to have multiple transitions happening simultaneously, each with its own set of expectations and unpredictable challenges which can make any sane parent want to disappear.

There’s good news, though! You can intentionally bring calm to the forefront and help your kids thrive during times of transition.

  • Deal with your own emotions. Sometimes parents can be full of anxiety about an upcoming transition while the child is full of excitement. Be careful not to place your emotions on your child. Find an appropriate outlet to talk about how you’re feeling.

  • Acknowledge that change is afoot. Talk about what will be different. Discuss what is exciting and what might be scary about the change.

  • Celebrate the milestone. While preparing for a transition can provoke anxiety, there is reason to celebrate the end of one season and the beginning of another. Share the ways in which you have seen your child/teen grow and mature. They need to know you believe in them and that you have confidence in their ability to navigate this new adventure.

  • Determine a plan of action. The unknown can be really scary. Helping your child develop an action plan for handling their transition will help build confidence and remove feelings of helplessness.

  • Identify your support team. Coaches, teachers, guidance counselors, pastors, youth leaders, mentors, grandparents, other extended family members and close friends can all be part of this team. Don’t assume your child/teen knows who is on this team. Discuss it together and make sure they can identify at least three people other than their parents who are on their team.

  • Talk to other parents and children who have already made this transition. Conversations with others who have successfully navigated the journey can be both encouraging and enlightening, saving you a lot of heartache and stress while giving you pointers on how to avoid land mines. For children/teens, talking with others their own age who have walked the road can be comforting and empowering.

All of these transitions are a sign of growth for children and their parents. These are great times to teach the life skills that will help your children be resilient. Instead of trying to avoid the changes, embrace them and make the most of them.

When temperatures are extremely hot, it’s hard to think about going outside and doing anything except jumping in a pool—and even that feels like jumping into a big bathtub! 

It’s a shame – because there are so many fun things to take advantage of in the region. When the temperatures cool off a bit and there are only a few weeks before school starts, it’s the perfect time to plan some end-of-summer adventures.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, childhood has moved “indoors” over the past two decades. The average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.

Children are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.

An ongoing research project called Child of Our Time follows the growth of 25 children from the time they are born until they become adults. They have documented some interesting findings about children who play outside.

  • One of the benefits of playing outside is that children laugh more. This is good because laughter is a stress reliever and it helps stimulate the immune system.

  • Another benefit of outside play is better health. Researchers found that children who engage in outside play have the potential to have stronger bones and muscles from activities like running and jumping. They also get vitamin D just from being in the sun. When children are active, they are less likely to battle obesity and more likely to do well in school.

  • Additional studies show that children who play outside are more likely to be adventurous and open to new experiences. They tend to be better at making friends and have longer attention spans. Outdoor play fuels the imagination and teaches children how to be resourceful by creating their own entertainment.

What are you waiting for? Put the iPhone down, pull your kids away from their gaming devices and head outside for some adventure and experience the benefits an active lifestyle can bring while making some great memories!

If you are short on ideas, here are a few to get your list started:

  • Ride bikes through the Chickamauga Battlefield.

  • Visit the Chattanooga Zoo.

  • Drive up to Raccoon Mountain and hike around the mountaintop.

  • If you are brave and your children are old enough, check out the Zipline at Ruby Falls.

  • Grab some cardboard boxes and go sledding down the hill at Renaissance Park.

  • Teach your children how to play kick the can, hopscotch and freeze tag.

  • Experience the climbing wall, kayaks or paddle boards down on the Tennessee River.

  • Create your own Summer Olympics and get all the neighborhood kids and parents involved. Sack races, egg toss, three-legged race and the wheelbarrow race are excellent backyard Olympic events.

  • Take your teens whitewater rafting.

  • Walk the Walnut Street Bridge.

Playing outside with your children is not only great exercise, it is a fantastic opportunity to bond as a family. If this is new for your family, your kids may balk at first but once they experience the fun, they won’t want to stop. Are you up for the challenge?

Are we there yet?

He’s touching my side of the seat. 

I’m hungry. 

I need to go to the bathroom. 

If you’ve ever taken a family vacation, you know these words are part of the package when it comes to taking a trip with children.

Whether you’re taking a two or 10-hour adventure, families can actually succeed in spending lots of time together in a small confined space, create great memories and share some good laughs. 

Although there’s no guarantee you’ll have a perfect trip, these suggestions can help along the way:

  • Include your children in the vacation planning process. Even young children can help find information about your destination on the internet or in books. Whether you plan to camp for the weekend or take a long trip, let them help you choose the activities.

  • Mark off the miles. Once you know where you’re headed, ask the kids to draw a map from home to your final stop. As you click off the miles in your car, have them fill in the road on their drawing. This will help them visualize how far away they are and may help curb a few of those, “Are we there yet?” questions.

  • Allow each child to assemble their own trip kit. Make sure you give them a size limit, like a backpack, for their goody bag. Ask them to include games and toys they can play by themselves and at least one game they can enjoy with the entire family. You can even put together your own trip bag with surprise activities or treats to share. Rand McNally has fun travel games for families, including a scavenger hunt.

  • Create tech-free time frames along the way. Remember the license plate game, road trip BINGO, Name That Tune and add-on storytelling? All of these would be great to teach your kids while giving them a break from DVDs or video games.

  • Start a daily “Positive Attitude” contest the minute you pull out of the driveway. Select a family mascot, then award the it to the person who has had the best attitude of the day every evening. The selected family member can keep the mascot until it’s someone else’s time.  

  • Plan “play breaks” into your allotted travel time. Even adults can find it hard to travel for long distances without a break. Instead of taking the quickest route to your vacation destination, plan some stops along the way so the children can run off pent-up energy. Have lunch at a park. Look for educational points of interest along the way and give the family a break from the cramped quarters of a car.

All of this may require a little extra planning, but the outcome will be worth it. Since families get to spend so little time together these days, it’s especially important to make the best of the times you do have with each other. Here’s to happy travels and making great memories.