Goodbye blue screen, hello blue sky

Father son fishing RGB Stock dMG4fII was standing in a lake in northern Wisconsin on a camping vacation with friends when it first occurred to me that I wanted to have more than two children. Jacob, then 6, was practicing a shaky front crawl, and Liam, then 3, was wriggling about in the water as I tried to find the right balance between giving him freedom to kick and splash without allowing him to drown. I looked at my little boys and knew I didn’t want this wet, slippery stage to end so soon.

Ten years and two adoptions later, I still find that family vacations are an opportunity to both reconnect and re-evaluate where we are going as a family. Parents say the success of a family vacation isn’t as much determined by the exact destination as it is by three crucial elements—time outside, time spent together, and time for new experiences.

Time outside, in beauty. Scientists are confirming through research what outdoor enthusiasts have long known—being outside is good for the soul. According to the American Psychological Association, spending time outdoors has been shown to be beneficial to mental health and psychological development. Families whose vacations include stops at parks, swimming in lakes, and playing in the sand reap the benefits—stress reduction, restored mental clarity, and an improved sense of well-being.

Julie and John, parents of two, rented a pop-up camper to see national parks in the western part of the U.S. They mark that vacation as one of their best. “Seeing the grandeur of those national parks, the huge sequoia trees, the waterfalls, the unbelievably beautiful scenery, we definitely felt the presence of something bigger than us,” Julie says.

Finding nature doesn’t need to be a cross-country journey, though. Carol and Jamie, parents of four, travel just a couple hours to spend a week at a tiny cabin in northern Wisconsin each summer. “The kids are busy fishing, swimming, playing in the sand, or making up some kind of ball game in the small yard surrounded by water on two sides,” Jamie says. “We even eat our meals outside. There’s extremely limited screen time, and it doesn’t seem to even matter because the kids are so busy being in nature.”

—by Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2012 Best in Class award from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past three years running. Here’s a sample issue.

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