Fun up family meals
We know that eating together can boost achievement in children, lower the chance for eating disorders in girls, and reduce depression rates in both girls and boys. But that doesn’t mean meals have to be serious, formal affairs. Simple, humorous rituals are what children remember as adults. Try a monthly ‘backward day,’ serving breakfast for dinner and vice versa, or watch Saturday-morning cartoons together over breakfast. “Silly things that don’t cost a dime will bring you closer together,” says Michele Borba, EdD, author of ‘The Big Book of Parenting Solutions’.
Stay home, stay together
Tape a note to the telephone that says ‘No!’ to remind you not to spread yourself too thin, especially during the holidays. It’s fine to make cupcakes for the school party, but do it with your child. And staying home for a night of reading books or watching movies may be a lot more meaningful to your family than a flurry of parties. “Reading aloud, in particular, is a great way to stimulate family conversation,” Borba says.
Be the cool parents
Creating a welcoming space for your kids and their friends is one of the smartest things you can do. So, install a basketball goal and stock up on board and video games and healthy snacks. “As your kids get older, they tend to befriend others with similar values and interests,” Borba says. “You can find out a lot about your child by who they hang with.”
Create (and uphold) boundaries
Families that set strict, clear expectations for their children are happier, according to Scott Haltzman, MD, author of ‘The Secrets of Happy Families’. “Kids may tell you they want to be free, but the idea is actually frightening to them,” he says. Make sure your children know and understand family rules.
Celebrate your history
Sharing details from your family tree will help your kids feel like they belong to something greater than themselves and make them feel more grounded. Look through old photo albums with them and share family memories, stories, and adventures.
It's one of the best ways to stay plugged into your kids' life. A simple, short ‘How are you? keeps you in their mind. And it’s an easy way to say, “I love you” without embarrassment.