Creating a happy family is all about encouraging team spirit, giving each member a sense that everyone is on the same side, writes former OHbaby! Editor Ellie Gwilliam.
Here are three ways to foster Team Family:
1. Encourage chores
Even very young children can contribute to the essential chores of family life. Parenting expert John Cowan says responsibilities and chores are vitally important to raising resilient children who then learn they are capable of making a valuable contribution. Start simple – toddlers can help you sort laundry into a pile for every family member. They can also put washing into (or beside) the washing machine, preschoolers can help set and clear the table and dust surfaces, and kids of any age should be encouraged to tidy up after themselves!
A preschooler’s efforts with housework may not be quite up to your standard, but of more importance is encouraging kids to contribute, so they learn that the whole family is responsible for helping the household function, not just over-worked Mum and Dad.
Make domestic chores a shared team experience — perhaps an hour every Saturday morning is spent with the music turned up loud and the whole family chipping in to take care of the basics.
2. Play together
Once the chores are attended to, it’s time to play! And as parents we need to remember that play is not just for kids. Making time to play together as a family will foster a sense of togetherness and enhance team spirit. It’s also a great reward for a family who has worked together to then take time for relaxation and fun.
Get down to your children’s level and build a Lego city, a train track or a block tower. Dust off a board game and get the dice out, Or how about a game of Snap! Take a walk to the park and kick a ball around. Independent play has its place and should be encouraged too but time spent playing with our children is never wasted.
3. Family traditions
Creating traditions around the way you celebrate as a family builds your child’s sense of identity and fosters feelings of belonging, as well as making sweet childhood memories to carry around for life. Perhaps your family hunts for Easter eggs at dawn every Easter Sunday, or attends a church service at night on Christmas Eve each year and then drives by the best Christmas lights in your town before heading home for bed. Or maybe when it’s your birthday you get to choose the menu for dinner and during the meal everyone must make a speech in your honour. Whatever works for the culture of your family, build it into a tradition that speaks to your children: “This is who we are and this is what we like to do together.”
Celebrating need not be reserved for holidays and birthdays – success for an individual family member is a success for the whole team. From a promotion at work to a dry nappy at night, the whole team cheers each other on and celebrates accordingly. The Parenting Place sells a special plate that can be used to honour the “player of the day” at dinner time, based on this philosophy.
Click here to see what makes other team families tick.