For one week, reserve a block of time each day to connect with the people who mean the most to you: your family. From Lisa Oz, author of Us: Transforming Ourselves and the Relationships That Matter Most.
Day 1. Have family breakfast together. If you or your spouse normally leaves before everyone else, let your boss know you will be running a little late. Sit down at the table, and before you eat, take a moment to express gratitude that you are a family.
Day 2. Have family date night. Do something fun all together. Go to dinner or bowling or miniature golf. Or just stay home and play board games. Try to avoid things like movies or TV. This activity is about bonding, and when you are watching something, you can't really speak to each other.
Day 3. Make a family values document. Get together for half an hour and brainstorm a list of the things that are important to you and your loved ones. For our family these things are telling the truth, saying you're sorry, letting go of resentment, being considerate of other people's feelings, and sharing whatever you have. Make sure that yours are personally meaningful for each member of your family, then have everyone sign it as a covenant that you will all strive to live by.
Day 4. Take an evening to revisit old family memories. Watch home videos of when the kids were little or peruse photo albums. Have the children talk about their favorite birthdays or vacations and tell them stories of when you were little.
Day 5. Have the kids write down what they will be like as parents. If they're too little to write, let them dictate to you. Encourage them to list the ways they will be similar to you in discipline style and how they will be different. You'll probably get lots of "I'll let my kids stay up as late as they want and watch TV all day," but there may also be some "I won't yell at them when they forget to pick up their toys." Look for things you could change in your own parenting approach based on your child's perceptions.
Day 6. Schedule a date for an extended family party or picnic. Invite as many uncles, great-aunts, and cousins as you can remember. Have everybody bring a dish (with a printout of the recipe) and volunteer to assemble, photocopy, and disseminate your family's personal heirloom cookbook. Also, bring a stack of poster board and markers and have everyone contribute to filling in the family tree.
Day 7. Make a decision to do something as a group that will benefit people beyond your immediate family. You can volunteer your time at charities like local soup kitchens (I have found a few in New York that allow older children to participate) or make something together that you can donate at a school fundraiser. My kids really enjoy taking flowers to the nearby retirement home and spending time with the residents. You can also set aside some money each month and determine as a family where you will give it. We let each child have a set amount specifically allocated to their own favorite foundations. For example, with the Oz kids, Oliver tends to prefer organizations that seek to preserve the environment or support the troops overseas, while Arabella wants to help orphans. Discover what matters to your family and get involved.
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