Written by Dr. Joannie DeBrito, Family Support Specialist
“There’s nothing to do.”
“I miss my friends.”
Whether communicating virtually or spending time physically with your grandchildren, it’s likely that you’ve heard some of these comments lately.
They’re part of normal conversations with kids during the summer months, but this year, we can all understand why our grandchildren may be feeling this way more than usual.
At the same time, parents are feeling overwhelmed after working to keep their kids busy while they were quarantined at home and they’re concerned about their kids returning to school next year, fearing they fell behind grade-level expectations during the pandemic.
Many Christian parents also worry that time away from church, Sunday school, and youth group has stalled their kids’ spiritual development.
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to help and to encourage learning and spiritual growth in your grandchildren this summer.
Weave basic learning into your conversations
First, take every opportunity you have to weave basic reading, language, math, history, science, and writing skills into your normal conversations and activities. Many libraries have summer reading programs that reward kids for reading books.
You might also want to expose your grandson or granddaughter to a really good series of books that brings history to life or takes them on fun adventures via interesting characters and compelling plots.
Reading the Bible or interesting stories about Bible characters or events can also be fun. While they’re reading, you might suggest that they write a story and provide some tutoring about spelling and writing skills.
Bring scripture to life by reading with them and acting out stories!
Ask them to help you with projects
If you live near your grandchildren, you might want to enlist them to help you with a home improvement project, do yard work, or compete with you in an athletic event.
Get them involved in measuring to complete the project, calculating money they can earn for mowing, edging, and pulling weeds, or converting miles of walking, running, or swimming into kilometers.
Have them help you figure out how their time and your time compare to one another and how to average performance numbers.
Do they like to bake? Have them figure out measurements of ingredients and how to half or double a recipe. If you have a teenage grandchild who is working at a restaurant, talk with him or her about how to figure out different percentages for tips at work.
Encourage them to learn about history
We are hearing a lot about the history of America and some of the information is factual, but some is not.
Help your grandchildren learn about the history of where they live. Or, if they will be traveling this summer, help them learn about the history of the travel destination, its people, natural resources, and significant events.
Get them excited about the unique aspects of the natural environment that exist there. Will they see lakes, rivers, mountains, prairies, deserts, or oceans, and what animals and plants are indigenous to the area?
Read Genesis together and remind them who created the Earth and all of its inhabitants and the solar system. Suggest or help them with science experiments that relate to those natural features or animals. Visit a science museum if you live near one.
Get them off of their screens
What’s the best thing you can do to encourage their learning and spiritual development during the summer months? Get them off of their screens and outdoors, moving and experiencing all that life has to offer.
Research has shown that too much screen time contributes to problems with eyesight, concentration, obesity, and a number of mental health disorders.
However, being outside in the fresh air and sunshine promotes exercise, overall better health, and improvement in moods.
So, get out and play with them, go for a hike, walk or swim or grab a camera and take pictures of the beauty of God’s natural creations. Kick around the soccer ball, play tag or hide and seek.
If you don’t live near your grandchildren, take pictures of your summer, have them take pictures, and share and discuss them with one another. Or, talk to their parents about helping to pay for a summer sports camp or a pass to the neighborhood pool or YMCA.
Teach them biblically-based stewardship
Furthermore, there are more opportunities to engage with other people when kids get away from their screens and interact with the world around them. The summer is a great time to stretch and grow their service and stewardship muscles.
Do they have neighbors who could use some help maintaining their yards or cleaning their house? Encourage grandkids to help without expecting to be paid. This is how God wants them to learn to care for and serve others.
Are they earning extra money at a job? Discuss how to manage that money and the importance of practicing biblically-based stewardship.
When my children started doing paid chores for us – those that were above and beyond what they were expected to do without pay – we gave them three jars. One was for spending, one for saving, and one for tithing.
We discussed the percentages for each and they have kept that system into their adult lives with some obvious modifications due to their more sophisticated understanding of money management.
Now, they have passed that on to my grandchildren and added a requirement that if they get something new, they have to find something that they no longer use and give it to another child or to a worthy cause.
You might want to help older kids do extra work to help pay for school clothes and supplies. Help them come up with a budget and figure out how to get what they need by staying within the budget.
This is a good way to teach them to be good stewards of the money they earn. You could also invite your grandkids to participate with you in a ministry opportunity at your church, either in person or virtually.
Kids usually enjoy doing activities with their parents and grandparents when they are young. As they get older, they may want to join more with their friends to do service projects but you can ask them about their experiences and what they learned.
Encourage them to use their time well
Finally, let’s return to the issue of boredom. Kids today are used to being entertained throughout the day. It’s not practical or recommended for parents to provide an endless stream of fun and exciting activities for their children each and every day.
We all have to learn to entertain ourselves and to use our time well, whether there is something on our schedule or not.
Adults who are emotionally healthy have learned to be comfortable being alone and how to use that time wisely. Rest, peaceful solitude, and prayer are examples of habits we can develop that help us cope with stress and draw nearer to God.
That development begins in childhood. The younger the child is, the less time he or she will be comfortable being alone, but providing opportunities for alone time is essential to develop into an adult who can enjoy silence, being alone, and also be creative and productive during that alone time.
There’s a practical issue here too. Entertainment often costs money and none of us know exactly how our finances are going to ebb and flow during our lifetimes.
When kids are raised to expect to be going from activity to adventure to thrilling event, this adds to financial stress on families and keeps kids from being able to appreciate all that God has provided for us in the natural world.
It also sets them up to expect bigger and better things each year and to enter adult life with more wants than they can afford. So, teach your grandchildren that there is a cure for boredom and it’s found in their creativity.
When my grandson tells me he’s bored, I ask him, “Well, what can you do to not be bored anymore?”
Over time, I have heard that less and less as he has come up with fun games, learned to enjoy reading a book by himself, and turned over rocks in our yard to discover caterpillars, spiders, and “dinosaur fossils.”
Show them how you use and enjoy time alone. Let them see you reading alone, going for a solitary walk, or praying quietly by yourself. I talk with my grandchildren about the conversations I have with God and remind them that I am never really alone.
We regularly practice quiet time so they can learn to relax, unwind and feel the peace of no noise and no distractions. I encourage them to use quiet times to listen to God.
Recently, my granddaughter told me that when she is quiet, she hears God singing to her. Of course, I can’t be certain of what may or may not be going on there but I do know that her quiet time tends to have a calming effect on her.
You can be an integral part of helping your grandchildren learn and grow this summer and in the meantime, help them get ready to return to school in a few months, encourage their spiritual development, and support their parents at the same time.