What Will Your Kids Remember Most? Take The 'Family Reunion Test'

By GALTime Parenting Pro Michele Borba, Ed.D.

Did you know that research shows that doing simple rituals enhance our feelings of togetherness and family belonging by almost 20 percent?

I loved reading that research because it proves that SIMPLE things we do with our kids on a regular basis not only work best, but also (let's get real on this one) are what our kids often remember most. We get so darn caught up in trying to "do it all" or spend money on the fancy outings or vacations. And when you ask the kids, they usually tell those researchers it's not the pricey events they loved most, it's the simple, fun stuff they did with us. Best yet, those moments were often unplanned, just "spur of the moment" happenings…and the kids never forget them.

I don't know if you got the memo, but kids do grow up (and much faster than you think…take that one from me!). It may be a good time to stop and ask what you're doing to preserve memories of your times together for your kids. Here's one fun way:

Use the Family Reunion Test: Pretend it's twenty years from now and you're at your family reunion. The kids are talking about your family memories.

So now be honest: What would your kids be saying about your family memories lately? Think simple, fun rituals that involve all the kids -- and mom and dad. Here are a few ways to get started…

10 Simple Ideas To Create Happy Family Memories

I started asking moms and dads to pass on some simple, no-cost secrets they use to create happy memories. Here are a few easy no cost-ideas they shared:

1. Use nighttime rituals: Read a nighttime story. Remind each other of the best part of the day. Give hugs and kids goodnight.

2. Create special greetings and ways to say "I love you": Rub noses for an "Eskimo kiss" or create your own family funny hugs.

3. Celebrate successes with a simple ritual: Hang a flag on the front door when something special has happened to a family member; use a "fancy" plate at the table when a family member has done something to deserve recognition. Another girlfriend, Cindy Morse, gave me the all time best shower present: a red dinner plate that says 'You are special." Anytime someone does something special, that member is served dinner on that plate. To this day it's the greatest family honor there is. When my son served in Iraq, I sent a red paper plate with cookies to him. He said his whole unit wanted to eat off that red plate. Sigh.

4. Develop unique birthday traditions: Each family member chooses his or her favorite birthday dinner menu, cake, outing, and song to be piped through the household as a birthday "wake-up" call. Some families even hang the family member's shirt on a flagpole or broomstick stuck in the front lawn to let the world (or at least the neighborhood) know it's that person's special day. My girlfriend blares out on the stereo every year per kid: "Today it's your birthday…."

5. Enjoy frivolous, fun (and sometimes dumb) rituals: Fly kites on Groundhog's Day. Play practical jokes on April Fools day. Come up with a silly Saturday morning ritual like serving "Monkey pancakes" that look like monkeys…just put two little dops on the top of the circle to look like ears. Run and jump on the bed and watch your favorite cartoon together. Have a "backwards meal" and eat hamburgers for breakfast. Have a "giggle run" when you walk in the door (translation - my husband started this one only because we had a long hallway. He'd stand at the door and yell, "Giggle run" and the boys would just run the whole way -like 20 feet :) - into his arms for a tickle and a giggle…and then always wanted to do it again and again and again). Meredith Viera's family has a first day back to school ritual: they all stand at the door and on a count of three run to the mailbox and back. How easy is that? And it's an every year ritual they always do the same simple thing. Just come up with one silly little ritual and do it again and again because you all enjoy it.

Read more for ideas 6-10. They'll have you thinkin' about your own family traditions--- or starting new ones!

If you have other great family traditions, please share your favorite in the comment section below. Remember the secret is "NO COST, simple ideas that kids - and parents - love doing and can repeat doing to keep those Happy Family Memories alive.

So how do you think you'd do on the Family Reunion Test?

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