2015 threw a lot at us including financial stress, unemployment, health scares and ongoing sleep deprivation. And when I think back on last year I honestly feel kind of sad. Sad for far too many days of fatigue and stress. Sad for too many days of distracted and disconnected. Sad for days of lost opportunity. I know that sometimes in this life the wheels just fall off, and that we did the best we could, but boy am I happy that 2015 is behind us.
Ahead lies a shiny new year of promise. And, for us, a year of happiness. I want to choose HAPPY in 2016. I know it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows but in among the real and the hard and the flawed I want to choose fun and joyous and many, many moments of raucous laughter. I want to intentionally focus on the beauty of my childrens’ smiles and look deep into their eyes, even on the hard days. I want to wake up with a smile and step out into the day with joy.
Maybe I am kidding myself. Maybe this is unrealistic? Impossible even? Maybe. But I believe making a more conscious effort to choose happiness can only make us a stronger, more connected family, and I know that it will positively impact my children’s developing sense of self, and their own senses of happiness and well being. Because I do believe there are small, intentional things that we can do to strengthen family relationships and make happiness as a family a priority, and I am planning to focus on one of these things each month. It am calling it Our Happy Family Project and I welcome you to join us.
To begin I am starting with something simple – the power of traditions. Why? Because traditions (or rituals) are very important to the identity of a person and a family. By sharing an ongoing cycle of traditions and rituals, families create stronger shared memories unique to their individual family unit. By dedicating time and effort to maintaining a tradition or ritual we are saying that this is important to us. For example, if your family recently celebrated Christmas you probably shared a series of family traditions related to the holiday that are repeated each year. Everything from attending a carols service to having a photo with Santa to hanging the Christmas stockings, these are all your family’s traditions specific to the holiday. They create an atmosphere of expectation, excitement, and joy in the lead up to, and celebration of Christmas Day.
And traditions aren’t just about the big holidays. They are also about regular family time. Designated times each week or month where your family’s #1 priority is enjoying time together.
Children love the security and sense of connection your more regular traditions offer, just like they do the big holidays, but with the added bonus of occurring much more frequently. And I believe the beginning of a new year lends itself perfectly to thinking about how we choose to spend our available time as a family.
As every family is individual and unique, each family’s traditions will be different but I invite you to consider how you are spending your available time together as a family. Are you connecting and having fun together (without external distractions) on a regular basis? Do you need to add in some time doing just that? Or could the way you spend your time do with a tweak or freshen up to spark more joy and connection? This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to spend regular time together, more a list to kick start your thinking but your family time might involve;
- Pizza or taco night
- Board game night
- Card game night
- Family brunch at home or eating out
- Weekend pancake morning
- Weekend roast lunch
- Movie night
- Dinner out together
- Neighborhood walks or bike rides
- Hiking or bushwalking
- Rollerskating, ice skating, ten pin bowling or playing a sport you all enjoy
- Playing music together
Once you’ve decided how your time will be spent, make it a regular occurrence and put it on the calendar so that everyone knows just how important this time is for your family. And when the time comes, switch off external distractions and focus on enjoying the smiles on the faces of the people you love.
What are your family’s regular traditions?
P.S. If you would like a copy of the ‘Home is people’ quote above to hang in your home as a reminder of Our Happy Family Project, you can download and print a copy of it here.
P.P.S. If you would like to share photos of your family time on Instagram, tag me at @childhood101 and #happyfamilyproject.