Creating a Gentler Summer in Our Orthodox Homes (Part I)

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Elder Porphyrios says:

The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God.  They need to become saints in their relations to their children through their mildness, patience, and love. 

We recently celebrated the Sunday of All Saints, a day that reminds us that we are all called to become saintly, that our lives here are filled with opportunities for us to grow in our love for God and others through the help of the Holy Spirit.

But today, you may be thinking becoming a saint is too lofty a goal, you just want to get through another week of your children’s summer vacation. Our blog series,  Creating a Gentler Summer in Our Orthodox Homes may be just what you need to inspire you!

Mildness

Summer’s slower schedule is a perfect time to catch your breath and live out what Elder Porphyrios says, starting with: Be mild with your children.  Mild means not easily provoked. Sometimes, it’s all too easy to snap back at our children instead of remembering that a gentle response turneth away wrath. (Prov. 15.1)

This summer, challenge yourself to try a strategy: when your child provokes you (especially when it’s part of a habitual cycle), try to intentionally respond differently. Say the Jesus prayer to yourself instead of snapping back. Then use a calmer tone, keep your dignity, and have a pre-planned response ready. Be prepared to repeat this. It may take a while, but breaking those habitual cycles pays off in closer relationships and a milder home.

Patience

Next, Elder Porphyrios instructs us to be patient.  I find that it’s easiest for me to be patient within intentional rituals of family life. If my children have a chore chart, it’s easier for me to be patient and calm because we all know what they’re responsible for and when it needs to be done. If my kids know what’s expected of them in various settings, it’s easier for everyone. In the summer, it’s tempting to become looser about these things, and that’s fine, but when kids have too much free time, you can expect that they may fill that unstructured time with things that may not be best for them. It may be helpful to fill the void of school activities with a few structured routines that will bring blessings to the whole family.

Here are some ideas to help create a beautiful rhythm of summer routines:

  1. Family Prayer: Last night, we all went to bed after midnight. Were my kids tired? Yes, but I still made them brush their teeth and we still had a sweet, if shortened, prayer time together. Every night we say evening prayer and then hug each other goodnight. This brings us closer, gets the kids settled down, and opens our hearts to God each night.
  2. Memory Verse: Summer is a great time for you and your children to memorize scripture. Take a verse a week and memorize, discuss it, live it.
  3. Choose a saint a week to learn about: Older children can research a saint, draw or write about them and then present their life to the family on Friday. The saints should be like friends to our children, but they must know them first.
  4. Attend services: Saint John Chrysostom advises us to imitate Hannah, who brought Samuel to the Temple as an infant. She not only brought her baby to church, she dedicated him to God and left him there. In contrast, it’s all too easy for us to find excuses for not bringing our kids to church at all. Take your kids to a mid-week service and let them experience more of the beautiful daily cycle of Orthodox life.

Saint John Chrysostom tells us that a child needs a pattern of life, and the gentler days of summer may be just the time to instill that in our families and ourselves. I’d love to hear your ideas for creating a gentler rhythm of Orthodox family life in the summer. Please share them in the comments section below!

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