My kid doesn't want to DO anything. What are we going to do ALL summer?!
For many of us summertime brings an opportunity to do our favorite activities. We finally have a chance to swim, grill, relax and watch movies. As parents most of us look forward to sharing the activities we love with our children. It is one of the greatest joys of being a parent to pass along a love of fishing, or hiking, camping, or baking as we also pass along the lazy days of summer. This is also why, when our children do not enjoy the same types of activities as we do, it can be so devastating. It can lead parents to be concerned when our children do not want to spend time outside, or spend time being social. We often feel children need exercise when they seem more interested in reading or spending time on their devices. Some of us have one child we can understand completely while the other child just does not seem to fit with the family.
Goodness of fit refers to a situation when we can understand our children. Usually this happens when our children are similar in natural temperament and interests as ourselves, other family members, friends, or our spouses. It can be challenging to parent a child who is not like us or maybe even unlike anyone we have ever known.
Fundamentally we need to first accept that parenting our children is meant for them, not us. While we may believe that they will find joy through the activities we find joy from, this is not always the case. The next time you are frustrated as a parent because your child will not try something new, take a step back and observe them. Some children like to watch other try new things for a long time before they are ready to jump in. What do they want to be doing right now? Do they constantly want to watch tv? They may need more stillness than you. Try reading with them. Try a board game. Try something you have never tried before. After all, isn't that what you are asking your child to do? Does your child seem to never sit down? Maybe they require a lot of motor stimulation. Take them into the woods to climb and explore. This may take sacrifice on our part because it does not fit with the activities, we find joy in. However, we cannot change a person’s core temperament. We can help them find meaningful activities and a rich life they can enjoy.
Finally remember modeling a healthy balance is key as a parent. We should never sacrifice so much of ourselves that we are lost completely. If you ask your child to participate in an activity with you and they decline it is completely acceptable to do your activity by yourself, if it is something you enjoy. Find your joy, and help your children find theirs too!
If you feel you are struggling finding your way as a parent you are not alone. Parenting is a tough job. Counselors can help navigate the challenges of parenting with you.