Cultivating joy as a family – Harvard Health Blog
The pandemic has been difficult for families. There have been so many losses, so many difficulties, so much stress and so much change. What makes it even more difficult is that there is so much uncertainty about when and how it will end; our lives and those of our children will be turned upside down for the foreseeable future.
There is so much that we cannot control in all of this that it is easy to lose sight of what we are can control. One thing we absolutely can do is cultivate little moments of joy every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, or something complicated or complicated. This is the problem of joy: it can be very simple.
Children have a great capacity for joy. It doesn’t take much to make them happy. It is even easier to make them happy if you do something with them – which can have the added benefit of making parents happy too, as children’s joy can be contagious.
Here are some ideas for simple and fun things you can do as a family that can bring joy. You can adapt them to your child’s age and temperament.
- Board games. If you feel like it, change the rules (which can make them more accessible to young children). You can even make your own board game, with cardboard and markers and whatever else you want to use for board game pieces.
- Cook! There is nothing like baking candy to make everyone happy. A can of pre-made brownie mix or cookie dough works well. No one will judge you.
- Paint and draw. If you can, go out and do it.
- Build things – from blocks, cardboard, whatever. Make a city. Leave it and add to it. Build a fort, inside or out, and have a picnic or sleepover there.
- Take family walks; Play I Spy as you go. Family bike rides can be fun too. Or just kick a ball. Anything you can do to be active somewhere without a cap is awesome.
- Play dress up. Remove the clothes from your closet. Be classy (your local dry cleaner might use some stuff) or silly.
- Put on a play (maybe while dressed). You can hang a sheet as a curtain. Or do a puppet show. if you don’t have puppets, they are easy to make with socks and markers. Have someone film it on their phone so you can all watch it together.
- Read loudly. There are so many exciting and fun books to listen to. You can start with books written for kids and jump into classics. My children really liked the books by EB White and Roald Dahl, as well as the Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis. You can take turns reading if you have older children.
- Put on some music, free up some space and have fun.
You can involve everyone in the family to come up with ideas. Have people write things on index cards or pieces of paper and put them in a bag or bowl, then choose them at random or together. Try to make regular time at least a few times a week just to be happy. It could be a family ritual – maybe even a ritual that takes root and becomes a permanent part of your family life.
These moments can add up, you’ll see. It doesn’t change the way the world is now, but anything we can do to relax and be happy, and give ourselves a pleasant memory, is good – and good for us.
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