1. Help him to choose the real.
The lure of the electronic screen is strong, especially during the hot and humid days of a D.C. summer. Yet, in nearly every case, it is preferable for a boy to have connections with what is real, tangible, and natural, over that which is virtual and artificial. Just as the human body thrives on natural and whole foods, so also does the mind (and soul) excel when the person is in contact with the natural things of the world. Watching a nature documentary? Ten times better is to get outside, and observe, dig, and find a real living thing. Playing chess against a computer is one thing, but playing against a real-life opponent, with all of the social interaction that goes along with it, is much to be preferred. When our eyes are turned towards a screen, oftentimes, we’re missing face-to-face contact with someone. Help your son to cut the power cord, and chose the real over the virtual this summer. The benefits will be measureable, and will make him a more well-rounded person.
2. Give him time to do nothing.
Copyright Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes
Not that we want our sons actually to be doing nothing… but there is a lot to be said for leaving some gaps in the day, for your son to find good and healthy means of filling those gaps. Let him find time to watch the clouds, observe birds, look at the stars. Rather than having an over-scheduled summer season, he may chose to work on an athletic skill on his own initiative. As necessity is the mother of invention, if you give a boy enough time to do nothing (and a little guidance) he can find a good something with which to fill that time. You can start, by leaving him holes to fill.
3. Encourage him to look outside of himself.
Summer’s relative lack of structure offers many opportunities for the use (or abuse) of free time. Too often, our society encourages us to relax, entertain ourselves, and look inwards for some need to be filled. What’s missing in the modern approach is honing one’s sight to the needs of others. This is greatly to our detriment, as in a very real way, we are meant to be a gift to those around us. Whether it is volunteering at a food pantry, mowing an elderly neighbor’s lawn (free of charge), or teaching a younger sibling to read, your son has many chances to make himself to be a real gift to someone. So with summertime’s natural freedoms, help your son to recognize those opportunities – point them out, encourage him to act, and then step back and watch him give of himself.
4. Remind him to work the body and the soul.
Summer has always been a season of physical activity, which fits in well with the warm weather and long daylight hours. Do not forget, however, the needs of the soul. With his extra free time, your son could easily add in fifteen minutes of prayer, time spent in the Presence of Our Lord. It may take more effort without the structure of a school day, but the payoff – a young man who is aspiring and working to grow in holiness – is certainly worth it.