Make mealtime family time. Sit down together at least once a day for a family meal. Make it festive: use candles and clothe napkins. Let your children pick wildflowers, autumn leaves, or pine cones for a centerpiece. Rules: no “adult business conversation” (save it for after the children’s bedtime) and no family disagreements at this time. Really listen to each other; create memories of family closeness by sharing food together.
Develop interest in a family sport in which all family members can participate: swimming, tennis, badminton, running, bicycling. Schedule regular times weekly for the family to play together.
Read together! Besides the traditional picture book or bedtime fairy tale, there are many novels that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Reading aloud together is a great winter-time after-dinner activity. (A good list of read-alouds can be found in the appendix of Calm and Compassionate Children.)
Do chores together. Rather than having the kids wash the car while you weed the garden, do both together. Instead of one family member dusting, another changing the beds, and a third vacuuming, clean each room, one by one, together. Play music and make it fun.
Every few months plan a special family outing other than the family vacation. Plan these far in advance as anticipation is half the pleasure! When children are young, outings can be as simple as picnics and hikes in special places or visits to museums, aquariums, or concerts. As the children get older, plan more challenging outings such as overnight camping, canoe or raft trips, or cross-country skiing.
Do herbal facials, back rubs, body massages, and foot rubs. Touching communicates caring for one another and releases stress and tension.
“Adopt a grandparent” at the local nursing home or in your own neighborhood. Visit monthly and together make little gifts for the “grandparent” at holiday times. Help your child learn that we give for the joy of giving and not for the gratitude of the recipient; an old person who cannot even remember your names might benefit most from your family’s attention.
Start a family collection–rocks, insects, feathers, crystals, tools, stamps, dried flowers–whatever you have enthusiasm for learning about or for treasuring. Go on outings together to collect; display the collection in your home.
Take turns preparing treasure hunts for each other with interesting clues hidden around the house and yard. The treasure can be something as simple as a beautiful stone, balloons, or a new pen. Be sure the kids get an opportunity to hide things and to create clues.
Turn off the TV. Do you have the willpower? Make your home a place where you set the tone and create an environment full of comfort, love, and respect.
By Susan Dermond. Susan (Usha) Dermond is an educator, speaker and writer. She is the founder and director of the Portland, Oregon, Living Wisdom School, a non-profit, holistic school for children. She also teaches courses online for parents and teachers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.