A Summer in Your City
By Maranatha Bivens, Communications Editor
Military kids go places. There even used to be a t-shirt that said so, with a giant picture of the earth placed prominently in the center. And it’s true—military kids get to visit and live in countries all across the world, from Japan to Turkey to Guam. Ask them, and they’ll likely say this is one of the best parts of being a military kid. Ask the parents and guardians of these children, and they might tell you that “going places” is one of the most difficult parts of being a military family – but a summer without a PCS move can present its own set of challenges. When your family is conditioned to being constantly on the move, what can you do during a summer season when you’re not scheduled to be anywhere? Here are a few ideas for creating a memorable summer of adventures close to home.
First things first—make a schedule. When you’re a kid, the days of summer seem infinite and wide-open with possibilities. This is true to some extent, but when there isn’t any structure to this infinity, you’ll start to hear the dreaded chorus of no one’s favorite song: I’m bored. Of course the summer months should include all of the fun activities your family wasn’t able to do during the school year, but it can also be a time of high productivity. As you set your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule (or all three), be sure to include your family in this planning process, so your schedule doesn’t turn into another chore list. Blending the fun with the functional, take this opportunity to keep up good habits practiced during the school year (kids making their beds in the morning) and schedule social events you now have more time for (sleepovers, block parties, movie nights, etc.).
Take a Mini Vacation
Most think that vacations need to involve an epic journey to a mysterious island thousands of miles away. In reality, most of us only need a few days to relax and recharge, and you don’t have to break out the atlas or the big bucks to find a place to do it. Plan an overnight trip to a campsite for fishing and hiking. Take a look at Reserve America (www.reserveamerica.com) for a list of nearby sites by state, most of which are pet friendly. Are there state or amusement parks within a few hours of you? Whether you’ve finally been sucked in by those ads for the new “X-treme Death Coaster 5000,” or were planning to visit out-of-state relatives or friends, these might be some great places to stop along the way (and staying with friends and family could take care of lodging). Don’t forget the attractions already in your backyard! Take a day to check out monuments or museums, many of which are free or have discounts for military families. Also, if you’re near a military installation, you can check with the Leisure Travel Services at their Community Center, who might not only have ideas for weekend getaways, but also deals.
Take on a Challenge
August will be here before you know it, and won’t it be nice to look back and have accomplished something? In addition to creating a schedule for the summer, it could be helpful to also set summer goals for both your kids and the entire family. Could your son’s reading comprehension be better? Create a chart that tracks his progress and helps him build to a reward for every book he reads. Does your daughter want to make the swim team in the fall? Schedule some time for her to do laps and drills at the local pool, or find a summer team for her to join. Maybe you’ve found out that the next duty station will likely take your family overseas. Why not use the summer to take a crack at learning the native language? Some challenges are even inspired by the season—are you hoping to somehow stay (or get) in shape after months of ice cream, cookouts, and late night pizza parties? Sign the family up for an end-of-summer fun run/walk, and make sure you carve out time each day to be actively working toward completing that goal together.
Yes, TV is amazing, and it seems like they come up with extra addictive programming for the summer months, but remember back in the day how much fun it was to get lost in a good book all afternoon? It still is fun. Of course there are great choices for purchase and download, and there are always tons of options at the old free book store: the library. You can create reading challenges, or use what your family reads as inspiration to put together homemade books with original stories. An added bonus to burning time is hopefully burning off some energy as well. Organize a neighborhood-wide “field day,” dividing kids into teams (complete with decorated t-shirts) to compete in fun games for a few hours, or create a neighborhood water park, with different stations at each house: water guns at your house, sprinklers and a slip-n-slide next door, water balloon wars across the street. It could be so much fun that the adults will want to join in, too!
No matter what you do, the summer break will come and go, but with a little work, you can make the months both productive and fun-filled for the entire family.
Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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