A family is like a tree: We, the branches, can all grow in different directions but our roots remain the same. Summertime becomes a chance to care for those roots by spending time with our loved ones.
During the school year, families’ schedules are packed with school, work and extracurricular activities. Even if we are still busy with work or friends during the summer, we can create opportunities for hours of quality family time.
The key is to be intentional and set some time away from distractions that may prevent us from being present (like our computers or cellphones). With some coordination and communication, summer with the family can be a memorable experience.
Try starting a small garden, hiking at a state park, camping, playing sports at a local park or your backyard. Maybe you can learn something new or share your skills with your parents, siblings or grandparents.
Listen to family stories and celebrate extended family traditions; or get in touch with your cultural heritage by talking to your parents and grandparents. Dig out old photo albums and look through the family history.
You can also go to an amusement park, the beach or a lake, or take advantage of free museums, concerts or plays in your own city. Or you could have a game night or movie night at home. Whether you get to travel or have a "staycation," take advantage of the summer weekends and discover hidden gems in your town. Maybe you can even create new family traditions.
Quality time with family does not necessarily mean a long trip, nor does it require much money — just some planning and communicating about what you and your loved ones expect or want. One of my fondest memories was a day trip away from the city to an open field where we flew a kite and later just talked over sandwiches and homemade lemonade.
Every family is different, and how to enjoy time together will vary from household to household. But what all activities have in common is that they require setting time aside for family and can strengthen family bonds.
An activity that could continue during the year is cooking a family recipe together and eating together once a week (or as often as possible). Take after-dinner walks together and have deeper conversations. You could also double up a recipe and share the meals with people in need. (For more on finding ways to volunteer with a family member, go to http://bustedhalo.com/life-culture/5-ways-to-be-a-superhero-this-summer.)
And, of course, this summer, make time for family prayer. Some years ago, authors and speakers Greg and Lisa Popcak wrote that they "treat family prayer, not as a duty or a chore, but as the key to true intimacy and joy in our home." They said that is because families are called to be schools of love where we learn how to love God and each other with our whole hearts and souls.
Mother Teresa is thought to have said that to create peace you must first "go home and love your family." By appreciating the time we spend with our families, we show others how grateful we are that God has blessed us with them. Summer is a chance to have undistracted adventures with your family. Cherish every moment.
Maria-Pia Negro Chin is bilingual associate editor at Maryknoll Magazine.