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My family of six lives in a very small home and at times, the “tight-knit” feeling can be a little stifling. The toddler is usually running around, being chased by her 7 year old brother (the shrieking!). And we have two teens (insert eye roll here). I’ll confess that my husband and I struggle to maintain our sanity at times. All that “family togetherness” can make me want to run out the door sometimes!
But of course, we still want to cultivate family togetherness as much as possible. I’m trying to soak up all the precious childhood moments I can. In a few years, our teens will be adults and out of the house (sniff!). Our toddler is quickly becoming a preschooler and our elementary aged son is growing before my eyes (I literally think he grew an inch last week!).
So yes, there’s chaos. But it’s necessary chaos. It’s the noise of two brothers playing a game of tether ball together in the backyard. It’s the squeals of a toddler running around the house in her dress-up costumes. It’s the banter of teenagers after dinner as they wash and dry dishes in the kitchen. And then there is the quiet, as kids retreat to their beds for quiet reading before sleep.
Even in the midst of chaos, it’s real family togetherness.
My husband and I have agreed that there are some things we want for our family and some things we don’t. It can be really hard to go against popular culture and do only what feels right for your family, despite what others say. I’m sharing a few simple ways we’re creating family togetherness at home.
My son has been playing tether ball at school and requested his own set for home. Naturally, he’s been outside after school every day, playing with his new set! But he’s not alone because the rest of the family has been joining him for a friendly game too.
Consider the things you can do as a family that could include some kind of exercise or outdoor activity. Grab a soccer ball and kick it around at the park. Take a weekend hike together with a picnic lunch in a backpack. I played 4-square with the kids on the patio yesterday! This doesn’t even have to be a big planned out thing. Just a walk around the block after dinner and a chat along the way can build family togetherness.
One very unpopular decision is our choice to limit electronic use. Yes, my husband and I have smart phones. But our teenagers do not. We had a older model video game unit for a while. But after seeing how our elementary-aged son acts after playing it and dealing with tantrums when it’s time to quit, we decided to remove it from the house.
I’ll confess that this family rule sometimes backfires with lots of, “It’s not fair!” and “I’m the only kid my age who doesn’t…” commentaries from the kids. Our 7-year old insists that a child in his class has a cell phone. And I wouldn’t be surprised by that news. But it’s just not something we’re worried about.
We’ll introduce electronics as needed, not on the basis of whether our kids need to “keep up” with what their friends have. During the holiday season we had family try and convince us that we should gift the latest gaming system because it’s what all the other kids are playing.
Would they totally love it? Of course! Would it make my life easier because they’d be quiet, watching screens and playing? Sure, I guess.
But then I think about all the hours that would be spent in front of a screen instead of face to face with another real-live person and no, that’s not something any of my kids needs right now.
More Books and Games
Playing board games and card games together as a family isn’t just fun. It also teaches patience while waiting for your turn, strategy and good sportsmanship. We keep a wide variety of games in our cabinet and often have a game evening together instead of sitting in front of the TV.
And of course, if I’m definitely encouraging the reading with my kids. I don’t do a lot of reading aloud with our older kids but I’m reading board books all day long with the toddler. The teenagers have their own novels they read after high school homework is done for the day. My elementary-aged son is a voracious chapter book reader and he falls asleep nightly with a book on his chest. It’s a habit I hope he never loses!
My husband was home from work this week and our family has been able to sit together for breakfast every morning. A bowl of oats and a cup of milk has been a wonderful start to the day, as we eat and talk about our schedule. Our day will end the same, with a home cooked dinner and another serving of milk. Eating together is a big way we create family togetherness.
Developing a family bond is important and milk has been a part of that. Between filling bowls of cereal, smoothie-making or a glass of milk served alongside homemade cookies, my family of six drinks about 4 gallons of milk a week. We love milk and make sure to never run out!
When I know that we need a family chat, I’ll bake homemade cookies. We can all sit around the table, dunking cookies into milk while we talk out issues. Pudding made with milk and served alongside a toppings bar is another favorite.
Pudding made with milk is something my elementary-aged son is able to make all by himself. And if you can engage kids in the kitchen while they’re young, they’ll be more apt to help when they’re older too. When I asked these two if they wanted to make pudding, they grabbed their whisks and got ready to stir!
Real dairy milk is wholesome, simple and affordable, enhancing our life’s most loved moments. Think about the moments in your life that are made more special with a glass of milk.
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