Thank you to Karly Randolph Pittman, who is the author of today's post. She is the founder of FirstOurselves.com.
This really hit home for me. We do a lot of rituals in our household to create a fun-filled time throughout the year for our family...we have an annual kid-friendly New Year's Eve party where we celebrate New Year's at the East Coast time, so everyone can get home before it gets too crazy on the roads. We celebrate Chinese New Year by going to the local festival in January or February. We do a tradition called Hearts of Loving Kindness that I learned being a Consultant for Once Upon a Family for the month of February. The leprecauns wreak havoc in our house, turning furniture over & leaving a die-cut shamrock trail through the house in March.We go to a St. Patrick's Day parade in March. Celebrate spring with an Easter egg hunt. The Easter bunny makes footprints throughout our backyard too! Summer is full of visits to the beach & extra time with Daddy (he's an elementary school teacher & has the summers off), as well as weekly visits to Legoland & SeaWorld (love those yearly passes!). This fall will be the 1st year of our son going to elementary school, so we'll take a yearly photo of him on his 1st day of school. We also have a visit from the Candy Fairy, the sister of the Tooth Fairy. She comes to take 1/2-3/4 of the candy away after Halloween & leaves a treat like a book or small toy. November of course if for giving thanks & December is when we go to every free Christmas event that we can. We love going on adventures to see neighborhood lights.
We like to spread out the fun throughout the year. Most of the things we like to do are free or very reasonable. It's a great way to create meaningful memories & connections with your family.
Here is Karly's inspiring post...you can read more inspiring tidbits on her website/blog: www.FirstOurselves.com. Enjoy!
Positive Parenting: How to Build a Stronger Connection with Your Children...on a Budget
What makes for strong families, and healthy, confident children? Meaningful connection. In his groundbreaking, fantastic book, Hold Onto Your Kids, psychologist Gordon Neufeld argues that many of the problems in today's children, from violence to promiscuity to low self esteem, stem from an overattachment to peers, and an underattachment to parents.
Whether you work outside the home, stay at home, or work from home, there are many ways you can build a greater connection with your children. I am a busy, working mom to four children. My family life is paramount to my happiness; at the same time, I also value simplicity and frugality. How do I meet all three of these needs---connection, simplicity, and frugality? Here are ten tips I use to create more connection with my children...on a budget:
1. Give experiences, not things. Are you a haver, or a doer? Often, what our children most want is our time and attention. Think outside the box for holidays and birthdays: what about a lunch date with Mom? Or a visit to a park, or an afternoon at the pool? We fill our children's Christmas stockings with coupons for Mom and Dad dates (see #3), and incorporate family rituals such as, "King/Queen for the Day," when the reigning child gets to choose a fun family activity and plan that evening's dinner menu.
2. Bring extended family on board. Carry rule number one, one step further and encourage the gift of connection with other family members. My husband and I both come from large extended families. Rather than fill our Christmas tree with unnecessary, cheap, China made plastic objects, we encourage our families to give our children gifts of time: a sleepover at a beloved auntie's house, music lessons, a trip to a museum, or another outing. Our eldest daughter, age 11, has even traveled by herself across the country to visit family: something she'll treasure, and remember, for more than a Barbie doll.
3. Schedule dates with your children. With a large family, it's important that my husband and I spend one on one time with our children. We schedule regular dates with each child, so they get uninterrupted, focused time with Mom or Dad: a lunch date, a few hours at a coffeehouse, or a game of chess. This can even be something as simple as going to the grocery store with Mom, or working with Dad in his office. We look at family time as something to incorporate into our lives, not as something to add to our lives.
4. Plan for alone time. This may seem counterintuitive---after all, isn't the point of having a family to be together? But just as we need times of connection, we also need periods of quiet and stillness, to be with our own thoughts. We integrated a family-wide afternoon "siesta." At 4 p.m., my children have a natural energy lull, when they're often cranky, hungry and out of sorts---not exactly prime connection time. After an afternoon snack, we retreat separately to our bedrooms, the couch, or another cozy area of the home to read, listen to a story on tape, draw, or rest. Afterwards, everyone's patience is improved.
5. Create rituals. Children naturally crave order and routine: they feel comforted by rituals, by knowing what to expect. We create rituals out of normal, everyday things---things that we were doing anyway---and made them special. Sunday mornings are Dad's famous waffle breakfasts; Thursday nights are wrestle nights; Friday evenings are homemade pizza and family movie nights (we use our library and an inexpensive Netflix subscription, as we don't have TV.) We also create rituals for our spending, incorporating regular purchases into holidays to add spark.This can mean new pajamas at Christmas (from the elves), a summer hat or rain boots at Easter, and a new sweater on the Winter Solstice.
6. Assign your children as your helpers. My children love baking, doing crafts or art projects, and even fixing broken appliances...when they feel like it's time with Mom or Dad. (I chuckle when I see elaborate, $500 play kitchen sets in children's catalogs: I let my children cook on the real thing---for free.) Think of Little House on the Prairie: how much of Laura's day was "work." And yet it didn't feel like work because she was helping Ma and Pa. Similarly, approach your home care and other chores as something to do together. I appoint a child as my sous chef for dinner preparation assistance; my son is often my husband's apprentice when he's tackling home repair projects; I anoint my daughters as my office assistants---they help file, collect documents from the printer, and do simple data entry. The side bonus? You are (slyly) teaching your children various skills as they work beside you.
7. Read aloud at meal times. We use dinnertime as a way to explore our world, often by reading a book aloud. There's something special about reading a book together as a family: you gain a shared vocabulary, a bond of language that feels like a secret, revealed to your family alone. Our family will often use favorite lines or quips from books throughout our day, and we all laugh, remembering the passage from the book. Or we incorporate a book's characters into our play: pretending we're the Riders of Rohan (from The Lord of the Rings) when we're riding bikes. 8. Use magic to create anticipation and meaning. So often we resort to buying things---things that need to be stored, organized, repaired, cared for, cleaned, washed---because we haven't thought of a creative alternative. What things bring is excitement: the rush of having something new. While there is a time and a place for gifts, you can recreate those same feelings in other ways, by incorporating magic and ritual to holidays and other celebrations. Our home is besotted with fairy folk and other magic friends: the birthday fairy decorates our dining room with streamers the night before a child's birthday; the Easter bunny weaves a lengthy scavenger hunt for the children's Easter baskets; the Halloween fairy collects our children's Halloween candy on November 1st, leaving a small gift in its place (this is fantastic for getting the sugar out of the house, and, I swear, my children love this!)
9. Have a simple way for your children to ask for what they need. Sometimes it's hard for children to ask for what they need. Sometimes they're feeling inside-out and they are unsure of what they need. We use code words with our children so they can ask for extra attention. We also have them create "Happy lists:" things that offer them comfort when they're sad, lonely, or angry. We divide the lists according to time: a list of things that can be done in 5-10 minutes; as well as a list of things that take a few hours. When they're feeling sad or wanting extra attention, we go to their lists, and they pick something, based on how much time we have at the moment. Maybe we spend 10 minutes looking at their baby book while I tell them what they were like as babies; maybe we play a game; maybe we go for a walk. Their "Happy lists" empower them to seek out ways to help themselves when they're down; a tool they can use throughout their lives. 10. Swap a notebook. I wrote about our family notebooks in detail, here: A Simple Tip to Cultivate Gratitude for Your Spouse. Here's a recap: I buy inexpensive moleskine notebooks and write positive, encouraging notes in them to my children and spouse. My husband and I keep our notebook on our bathroom counter; my children and I trade our notebooks in our in boxes. (Each member of the family has an in box in our home office.) This ritual, literally, changed my marriage. Besides creating a more loving home environment, the notebooks also serve as a chronicle of our family's history: an easy scrapbook of memories for future remembrances.