As we celebrate our nation’s independence this month, let’s remember that our country affords us opportunities to learn, grow, and be exposed to many interesting people and places. Let’s use the summer to broaden our horizons and the horizons of those we care about.
With the arrival of summer, many parents in our community have been wondering how they can make the most of their child’s newly found free time. For those who have enrolled their children in camp, many of which have started this week. Whether your child is in camp or not, the hot and lazy days provide parents and children alike the opportunity to explore new interests, broaden horizons, and create lasting memories beyond the classroom. Parents might consider putting the rule of thumb of Connectivity Council member Dan Willingham into practice: opting for at least one activity engaging the mind, the body, and the family every day.
Lessons Outside the Classroom
Summer is also a good time to do something we can’t do during the rest of the year, such as learning in a new environment.
Growing up, our father had a small painting contracting business. Jim remembers that his dad attended conventions put on by the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America Association (PDCA). Jim learned how to grow a successful business alongside some of the larger contractors in the organization.
The experience offered me invaluable insight into entrepreneurship, responsibility, and relationship-building that helped as I became an entrepreneur.
My experience at the PDCA proves that moments of connection in our youth matter – often, more than we realize. When my dad brought me to meetings it was probably to keep me off the streets and maybe my mom thought having to watch me would keep my father in check.
What responsibility and opportunities do we have as parents and individuals in facilitating connections? What exposures can we make today that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of our children tomorrow? For many of us, this year is a period of reconnection as the pandemic recedes. As parents reunite with their friends and colleagues this summer, what are the opportunities for their children?
The Value of New Experiences
Exposure to new experiences and people with diverse backgrounds offers children perspective with lasting impact. In fact, NPR reports that experiences before the age of 5 can directly impact our relationships and wellbeing up to 30 years later. Enhanced problem-solving and creativity skills, improved emotional agility, and greater empathy for others are well-documented benefits from spending time abroad. Dutch researchers found that workers who took two–to–three weeks of vacation in a foreign country generated more diverse ideas for alternative uses of everyday objects post-travel.
International travel is not the only way children can reap creativity and problem-solving benefits. Todd Kashdan, a psychologist at George Mason University, notes: “As long as you’re spending time in an unfamiliar environment, with people whose backgrounds and belief systems don’t entirely match yours, you’re succeeding at stretching yourself.”
Dan shared some helpful advice: “Experiences in unfamiliar settings can be useful for anxious kids in a different way. If your child craves the security of familiarity in most things, summer is a great time for them to push the envelope of their comfort a bit. Your goal is for them to see that they can try new things or meet new people…and nothing terrible happens! To set them up for success, be satisfied if ‘new’ for them looks like a baby step to you.”
A World of New Experiences Awaits
Parents may want to pack up the car and go for a road trip in an adjacent town, visit a new museum, use a language-learning app to pick up new, useful phrases, or introduce their children to a family friend working in an industry of interest. The important thing is making use of available resources to enhance our children’s experiences.
This summer, Jim will make it a priority to connect his granddaughter with the daughter and granddaughter of his close friend, Steve Pozycki. Steve’s daughter and granddaughter love to ride horses, as does Jim’s granddaughter.
Imagine the valuable skills she will learn from that exposure. From grooming the horse to learning to ride, Jim’s granddaughter will learn to be caring, to take responsibility, and to have the patience and determination to achieve a goal.
Growing up where we did, we didn’t ride horses. The closest we got to that was living nearby them at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, NY.
All the best,
Chris and Jim