One of the benefits of lockdown is that families have been able to spend much more time together – but that doesn’t mean it’s always been quality time.
Many families will have been together alone, spending time on devices in different rooms, and keeping any interaction to a minimum.
Sid Madge, the founder of Meee (meee.global) (My Education Employment Enterprise), an organisation which which helps people to recognise and believe in their abilities, is hoping to improve life for families by encouraging them to reconnect and enjoy their time together.
He’s outlined 60 ways to do it in his book Meee In a Family Minute, and says: “Lockdown has meant spending much more time with family, and for many of us the extra time has allowed us to reconnect, spend quality time and enjoy some of the simple things of life. But additional pressures can make maintaining family harmony challenging.
“One of the reasons I wrote Meee in a Family Minute was to help families, including my own, to stay connected regardless of the inevitable ups and downs of family life. Sometimes we need new ideas or new ways of thinking and relating to each other – right now.
“Making small changes and undertaking new activities can help get back and deepen our connections with each other – and it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Once you’ve started to introduce these activities, and take on new ways of thinking, they’ll become part of your family’s DNA.”
Here, Madge outlines five quick reconnection ideas that all families can try…
1. Create a family bucket list
Your children get only one childhood – make it memorable! Take a few minutes to sit down with your family and create your family bucket list.
What do you want to do, see or experience as a family? Once lockdown is over, where would you like to visit? Give yourself and your children something memorable to look back on.
2. Shop less – experience more
This is particularly relevant now as we’ve not been able to shop the way we used to. Busy parents are often tempted to buy a gift rather than share an experience, because the experience takes time. This has been turned on its head during the pandemic and many of us have been surprised to learn that time spent is what really matters to our children.
When it comes to family relationships and happiness, psychological research suggests experiences make us happier than possessions. Take a minute to plan a shared family experience – it might just be movie night and a pizza. Remember: we are the sum of our experiences, not our possessions.
3. What’s in your ‘bag of junk’?
Your brain contains about 100 billion neurons, resulting in 1,000 trillion connections. We use those connections to make up stories about our life. All the negative stuff we come up with is loaded into our mental ‘bag of junk’. And we lug it around and allow it to pollute our relationships.
The bag of junk shows up in all our relationships, but when we’ve been locked down with family for months it might be more visible than normal. Take a few minutes to consider what’s in your bag of junk. Think about the last decision you made – what influenced your final choice? Was it negative vibes from your bag of junk? What about emptying some of that junk from the bag and making better choices?
4. Learn how to say sorry
If ever there was an environment where ‘sorry’ was needed, it’s the family. Yet, this is often the place where it’s said the least. This is a mistake. Take a few minutes to consider a situation at home where you think you should probably apologise. Why haven’t you?
Parents can say sorry to their children and certainly most parents would be thrilled to hear a heartfelt sorry from their child. Siblings can and should apologise when they recognise their actions have hurt the other, or when they know they are in the wrong.
We need to treat each other the way we want to be treated ourselves. A genuine apology can wipe the slate clean and allow us to have an open discussion and heal any lingering upset.
5. Laugh together
The loyalty, trust and affection we feel towards our family is developed gradually over time as we share life, experiences and laughter. It’s the moments of joy and laughter that we often remember the most as we age. Laughter is the glue that sticks families together just as much as love.
Did you know that four-year-olds laugh 200 to 300 times a day? Adults only laugh 12 to 15 times a day. What happened in between? Take a minute to think about how often you laugh. Did you laugh today? Yesterday? Resolve to think like a four-year-old again and laugh more. Take a few minutes over dinner to decide on a funny movie or comedy show you can watch together. Have a giggle.