Can we get real about families for half a minute?
Do you sometimes feel like you spend most of your time with your family either A) asking somebody to do something (get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, pass the ketchup, etc.) or B) yelling for them to pay attention because they weren’t listening when you asked them the first time?
When our lives become nothing but an endless round of asking and ignoring (and yelling) it can make everyone in the family start to feel a little crazy.
We can’t tell you how to get your family to listen to you. But we can suggest some simple habits that will get you, your kids, and your spouse some real family time—enjoying each other’s company, having healthy fun, even blowing off a little steam. Because sometimes even a family needs to be reminded: Hey! We all (pretty much) like each other!
Eat a Family Meal
You’ll get more out of a family meal if everyone’s relaxed, so don’t tie yourself in knots to force it to happen, or feel that you have to make a big production out of it. But when you can, try to find one or two times a week for the whole family to be together for a meal. Keep phones, electronics, and the TV off. If the silence seems too deafening, try a little soft background music. But nothing that makes conversation difficult.
Preparing the meal together can be an ideal time to bond, and a great way to get everyone interested in trying healthy new options. And kids who might be too young to cook are often just the right age to set the table. (Get plates and glasses that aren’t breakable if you start this at a very early age.)
Plant a Family Garden
We all know we ought to be eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the most effective, and enjoyable, ways to make that happen is with your own home or neighborhood garden plot.
Without breaking your back, or the bank, it’s possible to get a great family garden going over a weekend if you do a little planning ahead. Try these container and raised bed ideas for a super-simple way to organize and build your garden in stages. Or put in a window box of herbs to add inspiration (and seasoning) to your cooking.
For tips on what to plant and when, there are numerous reference guides online, or at your local library. And you may find more than advice at the library: Many public libraries also offer “seed libraries” where local gardeners can borrow and share seeds at no cost.
Take it Outside
You may remember your own parents telling you: Take it outside. Turns out that’s good advice for the whole family. The fresh air and physical activity are great for your lungs and your muscles, and getting a little sunlight is one of the most effective ways of getting your body the vitamin D it needs to stay healthy and strong.
If your family is getting tired of the backyard, try a hike or a bike ride for a change of scenery. Or level up with a game of softball, Frisbee, or freeze tag. Kids of all ages seem to love chasing fireflies or butterflies when they’re around. If you should catch one, just be sure to treat it with care and set it free for others to enjoy.
Play (and Party) Together
With so many entertainment choices these days, we sometimes forget about our ability to entertain one another:
- Drag the kids (and yourself) away from the gaming console, especially in the evenings, and gather the family for some cards or board games (some new ideas and old favorites).
- Rather than spend hours watching television, take turns telling your own stories (spooky or otherwise). Need storytelling tips? Look no further than radio hit The Moth.
- If everyone just needs to chill, take turns reading aloud from a good book, or for the sore-of-throat, find a podcast (some great family options here).
- Dancing is not only great exercise, but great fun. Put on some music, play old records, whatever gets your family moving. If you don’t know any of the latest moves, dust off an old one. Funky Chicken, anyone?
If it’s been awhile since you put on a goofy wig, made anything out of Play-Doh, or took part in a puppet show, it may be time to give it another shot. As Muppet creator Jim Henson once said: “The most sophisticated people I know…are all children.”
Especially the ones wearing a shoe as a hat.