It’s summer! Many families experience a change of routine as school is out and warmer weather beckons activities beyond regular programming. However, unfundamentalist parenting continues even through the summer season. With a little extra time and a little extra mental capacity released from the school year, this is a great time to make a big stride towards raising children with progressive values and parenting forward. Here are 9 suggestions:
1. Read Diverse Books. Do your children need to fulfill a summer reading challenge for school or with friends? Create one yourself but instead of reading books with white characters written by white authors, challenge your family to find books featuring minority characters who have lived experiences outside of white culture. Even if it’s not in your family budget to travel, this is a great way to expand your child’s worldview by exposing them to a larger world outside the microcosm of your own community. Reading increases empathy, gains knowledge, and develops critical thinking skills. I suggest starting with this book list with biracial characters from #diversekidlit.
2. Say Yes. My general philosophy with unfundamentalist parenting can be summed up as this: say yes, say yes, say yes. Summer is a great time to give our kids the extra autonomy they may not have the rest of the year given restrictions of being part of a school system. Let the kids decide how to spend their days, and say yes to the adventures they come up with whenever possible. Not only does this bolster their confidence in their own ideas, it also sets the world up as a place to explore, not fear. Take a moment to consider whether your no is based on safety concerns, your own personal preferences, or a concern for “what others might think,” and maybe turn one of your no’s into a yes this summer.
3. Daydream Together. Summers can get boring for kids, just ask my kids the second day after school ended! But boredom creates mind space to wonder and imagine, which is how we’re going to save the world. Listen to your kids’ daydreams and tap into these opportunities to get our adult brains to daydream as well. Imagination is free and risk-free. Your child can be CEO or founder of a non-profit, invent renewable energies or keep space stations in orbit, discover new minerals or name a new star; nothing is beyond the scope of the imagination. It’s when they want to translate those dreams into concrete action that will require risk, and when that moment comes: refer to point number two.
4. Learn Something New. Make something. One of the most unfundamentalist things we can do is get our kids to create, because consumerism is the default role we all play unless we subvert it. Kids (& us) consume food, entertainment, & products all day, everyday. But when we make something, we are reversing that default consumer position and reclaiming our fundamental human value of being creators: to create beauty where there was none. Summer provides a nice small block of time that kids can set a goal to learn something new, whether it’s to make a new food, or learn an instrument, or even pick up a new language. It’s a great time to try and maybe something will stick beyond the summer.
5. Do One Act of Kindness. Just put it on the summer to-do list, do one kind thing everyday, or once a week, or one thing for the whole summer. Whatever feels do-able and not stressful. Inject kindness into the world. Enncourage your children to do it, or better yet, do it together. Volunteer at a (well-vetted, helping-not-hurting) non profit organization doing good in the world. Help an elderly neighbor with a chore. Like Gandalf says, it’s the small acts of kindness that keeps the darkness at bay.
6. Do One Act of Resistance. Attend a rally or go to a protest. Some people think taking kids to protests is exposing them to complicated adult issues too early and will spoil their innocence. On the contrary, keeping our kids ignorant of the realities of the world delays their ability to build up resistance against what will harm them. Resisting evil is EMPOWERING to our children, it tells them though the world is sometimes scary–love, courage, and community trumps fear. It helps them know they, too, despite their age, can make a difference in the world. And they absolutely can.
7. Learn Family Stories. Summer is an opportunity for families to take vacations together and for visiting relatives. This is a perfect environment for family story-telling to organically happen. Help our kids listen well when their parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins tell stories of their family, because it combats hyper-individualism and helps them situate their own identity and story in the larger soil of family history and context. Knowing where we come from—the influences, the privilege or struggle which we inherit—helps give our future direction, meaning, and purpose. Capitalize on these summer story-telling moments to reap a lifetime of benefits.
8. Practice a New Spiritual Practice. Unfundamentalist parenting is to refresh traditions with contemporary meaning so that it is relevant to the needs of the next generation. Explore a spiritual tradition that your child hasn’t tried before. Choose something to be particularly mindful of this summer, perhaps a new hiking destination or the swimming hole you go to every summer. Help the kids be still for a moment and soak in the transcendence of the activity. Ask them where they see God, if they hear God, and what helps them feel spiritual.
9. Be evangelized. VBS, ugh, am I right? To be fair, maybe not all VBSs are trying to manipulate and indoctrinate children, but there’s enough out there to be concerned. Instead of evangelizing others, spend the summer being evangelized by people of various faith traditions. Maybe visit a mosque or a temple or read a book about another world religion. Being evangelized does not have to “water down” our own faith tradition, but will help us find common ground with others and enrich our narrative of what being human is all about. Exposing our kids to religious literacy will help break down barriers to connect with others and equip them to navigate an increasingly pluralistic world.
Hope that gives you plenty of suggestions to brainstorm your own ideas. Share yours in a comment! Happy summer, fellow Unfundie parents!
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