Agreements, fun, and freedom!
Summers to me seemed endless when I was growing up. I remember heading to the pool on a regular basis, playing night games with neighborhood kids, or staying out all day and coming up with all sorts of games where our imaginations were our only limits. Summers meant freedom, friends, creativity, mess, and memories. I’m sure like many of you, I want all kids to have fond memories of summer. One of the best ways I know how to foster this for them is to create simple boundaries and expectations, so they know both what is expected and all of the places and ways they can move freely.
Boundaries create freedom
Each summer, my partner and I evaluate how the year went, how our kids are doing in general, areas they are struggling with, what we hope for them with their summer, and the boundaries we need to have in place in order to support our vision. Once we’ve brainstormed and narrowed down our ideas, we create a posterboard document that is known as our Agreements for Summer Fun & Freedom.
We chose the title very intentionally, wanting to convey to our kids that by upholding their end of the agreements, they can have a summer filled with fun and freedom. Another important thing to understand about our agreements is that it’s not our chore chart nor our media rules. Those are separate and consistent year round. These agreements come into play since summer brings more free time, less structure, and and increase in all sorts of opportunities...which we want to be positive experience for our kids.
Agreements versus Rules
Maybe you noticed that we used the word agreements instead of rules and that was also intentional. A core principle of healthy relationships and of sexual health is agreements. While our agreements for summer freedom don’t explicitly have anything to do with sexuality, they have everything to do with sexual health including inclusivity, honoring boundaries and agreements, media literacy, emotional awareness and more. At the core of this is a relationship with our children. We use this to teach and guide and provide an opportunity to create a shared understanding. We didn’t want one-sided rules that were set by us, posted without context, and have little relational value.
"Agreements... have everything to do with sexual health including inclusivity, honoring boundaries and agreements, media literacy, emotional awareness and more."
Now is always a good time to start
As we are about halfway through summer, you might be wondering if it’s too late to introduce something like this. As I like to say, it’s nice to start early but it’s never too late to start. If you would like to introduce something like this to your family, an easy way to bring it up would be to have a conversation or two about the summer in review, saying something like, “Hey! We are halfway through summer. How is summer going so far? We’d love the rest of your summer to be awesome so we wanted to go over some things that are important in our family. We’d love to see what things matter to you too!”
And if you already do have family boundaries and agreements in place around summer, now is a great time to review them to see how things have gone. It's important when learning about agreements and boundaries to be curious and check in on them from time to time, to recommit to what was agreed if necessary, and see if there is anything that should be added or modified.
We've been doing our summer agreements for multiple years now and our kids have come to expect this to be hung in our kitchen each summer. It's been one more great opportunity to discuss and teach and support them in their understanding of agreements and boundaries and how having those actually helps us in having more fun and freedom!