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Soak up the love: Shifting the focus of summer plans

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by Jamie Roach

Now that things are opening back up, have you felt the urge to make up for all the things you missed out on during the pandemic? Maybe you feel the pressure to plan the perfect vacation to make up for the one that was canceled? Seeing other people’s pictures on social media from another fun night out or their epic trip often adds to the anxiety we are already feeling. There is a motor in our gut propelling us to action — to do something now. The pressure to over-schedule or plan something big can run like background noise in our lives, silencing the beauty. 
Perhaps you are like me and part of you wants to shut down, believing there is no way to keep up with the Joneses. “Better not to try than risk failure,” we tell ourselves. Realizing that such an epic trip is not in your budget this summer causes part of you to feel like a failure as a parent. Both extremes are real. There is a real temptation to either over-schedule and over-spend or go to the other extreme, play it safe and do nothing. 
There is another way — a more helpful and productive way. It involves a shift in our thinking from “What are we going to do?” to “How will we be together?”
Starting with, “What are we going to do?” immediately shifts our attention to secondary things. We become concerned with logistics, places, things. On the other hand, asking, “How will we be together?” shifts our focus to things that are primary, the people we love. Starting with the first question may land you on a beach fit for a postcard. However, if you have not been paying attention to your own heart and the connection felt between family members, you may also find yourself feeling stressed, distracted and disconnected. 
Starting with the “How?” question turns your attention to how you are and the closeness between family members. Maybe you still end up on that beach or maybe you enjoy a “staycation.” It doesn’t really matter if both options find you feeling internally calm while externally connected to those you love most. Jesus was fond of saying, “If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit.” (Matthew 12:33 MSG) Our families are like a tree; tending to our hearts and relationships determines whether we taste healthy or like worm-eaten fruit. 
The poet Maya Angelou provides tremendous insight for parents.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou
I firmly believe that the way we make our children feel is far more important than all the activities we engage in or where we take our next vacation. 
Have you ever considered how your presence makes your children feel? Why not take a few minutes to sit quietly with yourself and take inventory of how you are?  What is the condition of your heart?  Do you feel calm or anxious, free or constricted, connected or alone?  How might these feelings be seeping into the soil of your family? 
How we are with our kids, rather than what we are doing with them should be our focus.
It is much easier to hide the anxiety, tension or conflict from an Instagram post than it is to remove it from your child’s heart or the space between you.  

Something to try:

Before you get lost in the busyness of summer, consider taking time to process together as a family what you noticed during the pandemic. Consider some of these questions to guide the conversation.
What was good about this last year that we want to hold on to? 
What didn’t work for us as a family this past year and what should we try that is different?
What is one thing you have learned about yourself and/or our family in going through the pandemic? 
It is important to not become defensive if you choose to ask these questions. If your children sense you getting defensive, they will react and either shut down or become overly aggressive, killing the connection you are looking for. Instead, keep an open heart, listen and validate what they are saying. That doesn’t mean you agree with them, but that you do see and understand them. We all deeply long to feel understood.

Get to know Jamie Roach: Jamie has served on the staff of Youthfront for 35 years, working with students, parents and youth workers. His passion is seeing people live their best life. Jamie is a spiritual director, author, communicator and (almost) Licensed Professional Counselor. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary and a Master of Arts in Counseling from Mid-America Nazarene University. Jamie loves Nebraska football, reading, walks in the woods and hanging out with his family. Jamie and his wife Lea Ann have four children: Megan (29), Haley (27), Logan (24) and Sophie (21)

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