Do you, like me, seem to run on anxiety, caffeine, and your children’s leftovers? Are you perpetually in a rush and pretty sure you’ve forgotten… something? (What was it?!) What if, and stay with me here, you were able to set aside that feeling of chaos and actually find joy?
Yes, it sounds cheesy. But don’t roll your eyes just yet. It’ll only take a few minutes a day. OK, so that sounds like a late-night infomercial (remember those?), but it’s true. While you can’t move to a commune and cultivate free-range sunflowers, you can take a few minutes to hit the pause button. Here are some easy ways to switch things up and make the whole family happier.
1. Have a whatever-makes-you-happy hour or a “yes day.”
One mom changed her life (yes, really) with what she calls a “whatever-makes-you-happy hour.” You know that ferocious hour sometime around dinner when kids turn feral? Rather than fighting it, this mom runs with it. For those 60 minutes, her kids do whatever they’d like, barring cruelty or serious danger, while she and her husband kid back with the adult beverages of their choice. This sounds daringly 1970s-ish, but it works. Her kids experience the joy of running wild. She has time to kick back. When it’s over, they come together and eat dinner as a calm, reconnected family (and clean up before bed).
Alternatively, try a “yes day.” We spend our lives telling our kids no. Why not spend a day, an afternoon, an hour, saying yes? Yes to board games or jump-rope competitions or ice cream for dinner or fairy wings in public. Check all the ground rules in this post (note: No danger allowed and set a budget!), then go forth and make some incredible memories together.
2. Make time to play.
You can waste your whole life on your phone, so set it down. Actually, stuff it in a drawer because it’ll inevitably go off. Everyone, including kids, now gets to spend an electronic-free hour doing . . . well, whatever they love other than electronics (remember books? They’re made of paper). Before dinner is a great time for this, so is the hour before bed. Hang from the ceiling if you want, but do what you love.
3. Remember that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
You’ll love your children even more if they aren’t around all the time. I promise. Prioritize alone time—for them and you. You could go the cheesy self-care route and take a bubble bath. You could craft. You could watch a TV show that isn’t geared toward five-year-olds. You could also go on a date, which I hear is something adults do from time to time. Reconnecting with your partner will help you find some sanity. Leave your phone in your bag while you’re at it!
4. Show some love.
Snuggle with your kids—science says it’s good for you. Hugging makes us happier, healthier, and less anxious, which is something your whole family deserves. After cuddling with the younger set (so long as they’re game), set your sights on your significant other. Sex therapist Vanessa Marin shares that a nightly makeout session that doesn’t lead to anything more is a pretty solid idea and may even prevent those in long-term relationships from becoming “touch-avoidant.” Sounds like a fun thing to try. I mean, a therapist recommended it.
5. Surprise and delight.
Life can be a real grind. While we can’t permanently decamp to a tropical paradise, we can break up the mind-numbing routine with moments of unexpected fun. No, you don’t have to go all manic pixie to do it: Give your kids dessert for dinner. Surprise them with a night of mini golf. Announce an impromptu movie night or declare a pajama day.
6. Un-schedule from time to time.
No, you can’t drop everything, but you can pick and choose. You don’t have to do every single activity presented to you. Take a weekend off from planned fun. Part ways with that sport your kid doesn’t love. Skip the birthday party. There are so many demands on your time; prioritize a few and let the others go. After all, kids spend their lives hurrying up. Give them—and yourself—a chance to chill.
7. Dedicate 10 minutes a day to each kid.
The experts behind Big Little Feelings call it the “10-minute miracle.” No phones, no siblings, just dedicated parent-and-kid time with no correcting or criticizing. For those 10 minutes, go all in on whatever game/bonkers make-believe scenario/craft activity your kid wants. Doing so should help curtail acting out—after all, many kids get extra unruly when they’re in need of connection and attention. Spend a bit of time every day giving it to them.
8. Practice gratitude.
There are lots of ways to do this. You can sign up for volunteer opportunities, talk about the things you’re thankful for (on more than just Thanksgiving), make a good deed calendar—whatever works for your family. But make sure you insist on the importance of giving back to others and being grateful for what you’ve been given. Life can seem too big and too busy, so stop and count your blessings, then pass them on to someone else. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your kids.
9. Share the smallest moments for the biggest smiles.
Remember those family photo albums with the plastic sheets you’d peel apart to lay down your favorite printed pics? That ship has sailed. Now you can create the most amazing time capsule for your family on the Tinybeans App (your kids will thank you one day when they’ve stopped rolling their eyes) and share all of your sweetest and silliest moments with family and friends. They’ll delight in seeing that first waddle or goofy smile each time they get an alert, and you’ll get a solid dose of joy every time they comment or react.
10. Host an impromptu dance party.
Turn up that music and dance! Oh, and sing along. Toddlers will love it. Older kids might try to hide. Don’t let them. Instead, crank the volume louder. Dancing is good for you. So is joy. Give yourself room to feel it.
11. Always have something to look forward to.
Make sure there’s always something good on the way—a trip to the ice cream shop, a birthday party, a night with friends. This goes for your kid and you. Then when times get tough, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. We need this more than you’d think: If the slog seems endless, we’ll quit. But with our eyes on the prize, we’re all. gonna. make. it.