For many of us, fun stopped becoming spontaneous and automatic around the time that we decided we had to be responsible adults. But if we want our families to be happier, we need to find ways to make family life FUN!
Here are 5 ways to help make fun a habit…
Imagine a child whose every interaction with their parent is met with a look of serious concentration or contemplation – they are not angry or annoyed, simply preoccupied. Now, imagine that when that same child looks at their parent they receive warm smiles and gentle, approving eye contact. Which would have the most positive influence on the child’s wellbeing?
Smiles improve relationships and they seem to make life more fun. Let your face know you feel great. Smile!
Learn new things together
Most children are naturally inquisitive and deeply curious. They love to learn new things. Learning is both fun and potentially profound when we do it together. We can have fun helping our children explore a topic they are interested in, we can plant a garden, learn new sports, and do crafts.
Exploration, learning and curiosity are fun and make families happy. It simply requires that we are willing to be creative, explore ideas, and respond to our children’s questions with enthusiasm and interest.
Just add treats
I don’t know of any family activity that can’t be enhanced with treats. If you are having a family meeting or a working-bee in the garden, include popcorn, ice-cream, brownies, or if you don’t do processed sugars, a big bowlful of strawberries of freshly chopped watermelon.
This approach is best used randomly and for fun, rather than as a bribe.
Treats are fun! But they should be offered unconditionally and to everyone, rather than only on conditions being met and only to those who meet the conditions. Otherwise it stops being fun for everyone.
Celebrate - whatever!
Our lives are potentially full of reasons to celebrate. Our children experience some form of success regularly – from winning a swimming race, to putting away their bag without being asked.
Mix it up and celebrate in different ways. It could be a hug, high-five, kiss, bowl of ice-cream, trip to the movies, a special date with mum or dad or a family dinner at a favourite restaurant. For best results, celebrations should be spontaneous, unexpected and a one-off event. They should not be used as a carrot to bribe a certain behaviour.
We don’t need to make our children’s minor experiences into front-page news, but we can have fun when they do well. Do something more than nod ‘well done’ while chopping carrots for dinner. Pause. Get into the moment. Respond actively and constructively. Celebrate!
5 Minutes of Fun
If you children are demanding your attention, give it to them. We can all afford 5 minutes to become engrossed in some fun with our children. This can be unstructured play like rolling around on the floor or dancing to a favourite tune, or it can be structured play, like a game of UNO or charades.
These micro-moments of positive engagement show that we are involved and available to our children. They teach our children that they are worthy, and they promote a sense of family cohesion and togetherness. They give us moments to be grateful for, to reflect upon and to savour.
So today, find something to smile about. Drop your agenda and have some fun. Find something new to learn about or explore with your children. Cook treats, buy teats or just eat treats. And find something – anything – to celebrate. Then, do it again, maybe a little differently, tomorrow.
Read more about fun and play in my book 21 Days to a Happier Family
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