Happy Families

To be active in a happy family, we need quality family time, quality couple time, and quality me time.

In my family, our favourite family time activities include family quiz night; and going for bush walks.

My husband and I enjoy the occasional date night. It is lovely just to cuddle up on the couch watching a movie. We love walking and chatting together; cooking together; or working outdoors together.

We each need alone time, to recharge. In my own life, I felt as though I had to keep giving, 100% of the time. My husband suggested I needed to take “me time”, but my response was always “How? When?”. But, guess what? If you don’t take that time to recharge yourself, you deplete your reserves pretty quickly. It is impossible to continue giving to others what you no longer have. Therefore, not only you, but your family, work, and every aspect of your life will suffer.

My favourite alone time activities include taking time to read a novel; listening to music I love; and organising things!

I urge everyone, especially now that restrictions are easing, to grab some “me time”, and make it a regular event. 

Something I find challenging, yet rewarding is discovering how to be the Mum I want to be, rather than the Mum I was taught to be. It involves taking a second before reacting. Is my reaction how I truly feel, or is it the voice of my own parent? Something I heard many times as a child and into adulthood, designed to belittle and quieten me, put me in my place, which always led to feeling small, and insignificant. A secondary result being a strained – nonexistent relationship with my parent.

Raise happy, healthy children by being this yourself. Children learn from what they see. There is no point telling your children they need to take care of their bodies, if you do not. Or to respect the people around them, if you do not model this yourself. As parents, we love our children, they know we love them. However we treat them, is what they will believe is how love looks. However we treat ourselves, is how they will grow to treat themselves. The way we interact with our partner is how they will believe a couple should act, and treat one another. Whatever we do, or say, our Special Little People are looking to us, to learn how to act, how to behave. However we treat ourselves, our partner, family, and the wider world is what our kids are learning. How we treat them, is the way they believe they deserve to be treated.

We all have our moments, our mistakes. Don’t focus on these. Take a deep breath, and start over. Don’t repeat the mistakes you have identified. Talk about it with your kids. They will see how you handle a ‘failure’, repair the damage and then move on. Nobody is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. Learn from any mistakes and move on to make happy memories with your family. Model the happy healthy person you want to help your children become.

Your kids love you. Sometimes it’s hard being the one to set the boundaries they push against, but they will appreciate it in years to come, if they don’t already. They need the boundaries. They need to push against them. Sit down with a pen and paper +/-  your partner and create your list of values. Create your boundaries from your values, knowing that these boundaries will change slightly with the age of your child/ren. Be as broad or specific as you like. Know you have reasons for these boundaries, and where they fit in your value set.

Some boundaries will be fairly obvious, i.e. not to engage with strangers online.

Others might be bedtimes, or whether your child is able to visit a friend on a school night.

Once you understand where your boundaries fall, it will be easier to enforce these with your children. Enforcing your set boundaries will give your child/ren a greater sense of security, as routine and structure are very important to their well being, and development of self.

I love being a mum, because all it takes at the end of a rough day, is a bright smile; a big snuggle; a simple ‘I love you’, to melt my heart again. It’s so lovely having those ‘I’m so proud of you’ moments when one child stands up for herself with her peers, or another masters a skill she has been practicing. Another still shows great compassion and consideration for a neighbour. It’s nice to be able to calm and soothe an upset child, and know that you have made a positive difference in her life.

Being a parent makes me want to be my best self. Knowing who is watching, I want to give the best example of my best life. Sure, some days are a disaster. But, you get up again and try better the next day.

I have mentioned the benefits of family time, couple time, and alone time. You, hopefully, no longer feel so guilty wanting to set aside time for each of those activities. But, how do you make the time available? The ages of your children will have a big impact on this. In our family, ‘family time’ is the easiest to come by. Everyone is involved, engaged and happy. ‘Couple time’, and ‘alone time’, somewhat more difficult to organise. You’ve only got so many babysitting favours to call in. It doesn’t always work to wait until the kids are in bed, as often you want to go to sleep yourself, and, if your house is anything like ours, it’s not just a matter of settling your children in bed, and then the evening is yours. You will be visited by them, one by one, on at least a few occasions each before they sleep.

Fortunately, our youngest still has naps most days, and goes to bed comparatively early each night. These times then become available for different activities. When couple or alone time is required, our older kids are happy to oblige when we pull out an activity for them, or even better a 77boxes box each. These can keep them entertained for hours at a time, and we promise we will ‘come and see’ everything in their boxes, at a later time. This gives us all (kids and parents alike) the space we need to recharge, and it is something to share and delight in, together as a family, at a later time.

“The memories we make with our family is everything.” – Candace Cameron Bure

I love this quote. It ties in very much with how we make each other feel. When you look back on your childhood, is it with fond memories? How will your children remember the childhood they spent with you? I hope my children remember the good times. The times we laughed together. The times we played together. The times when my husband and I stood firm with our boundaries. These are the memories we create everyday. Hopefully, the common themes of their childhood.

Picture a time, you, as a child, approached a parent, or caregiver, to discuss a problem you were having. If you were told “you’re not the only one with problems you know!”, how would you feel? Would you have persisted, or would you have withdrawn into yourself, unlikely to seek assistance from that caregiver again?

If instead, you were invited to talk either right away, or at a different time… How much different would you feel? Would you have been more likely to seek assistance or advice again?

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

Catherine M. Wallace

How very true. If your 2 year old tells you about the big pink bear eating LEGO in her sister’s room, your 9 year old is upset because friend one thinks 9yr old likes friend two better than friend one, and won’t believe 9yr old likes both the same. Or your 11 yr old is in tears because someone she respected called her ‘stupid’. You listen to all of these things. You let them feel heard, and offer support and advice as required. You let them know that they can come to you for any reason and you will be there for them. Prop that door open, so small things or big things will come to you, for a hug, advice, support, or even a shoulder. The parent or caregiver can then help guide their child where necessary, and the child will feel supported, loved and valued.

Who else is like me, when it comes to parenting articles?

Almost every time I come across one, I’ll read it, or save it to read later. Reading through each article, I look for signs of myself in it. Do I do this? Do I not do that? Have I ever said something similar to any of my kids? Am I doing the right things, and teaching them the right lessons?

It was reassuring to read that many other parents were struggling with forced homeschooling, while caring for their preschooler/s, and working from home. Emotions certainly ran high in our household, as our children missed their friends, and outlets that they can’t participate in from home. (It wasn’t just the kids of course, missing these things, it was all of us).

I was relieved when I read that studies had concluded that parents engaging with their phone around their children did not have negative consequences, as long as it was used in a balanced manner.

I look for things I can change, to improve my parenting skills.

Family are the people we surround ourselves with, who we love and support, and are loved and supported by in return. These are the people who, no matter how geographically near, or far from us, are always close to our hearts. Family can include those we are born or adopted into, the family we create with our chosen partner, or the friends who are so close they become family. The way we are related is perhaps of less importance than the way we all feel about one another. The way we interact, help, support and encourage each other.

What does family mean to you?

I believe that consistency and routine, particularly in their early years, form a big part of a child forming a sense of self.

To give a simplified example: 

If, as parents, we sometimes greet our children with a smile and a hug. Then, with nothing changed, as far as they know. The next time we sneer at them and tell them they are constantly in our way. This would lead the child to be wary of us. Over time this inconsistency leads to a wariness in our children, not only of us, but of others also. They do not know how they will be received. They are constantly on the back foot, wondering what they have done wrong, because it must be them. Their parent would not behave that way towards them for no reason, would they? The child loses confidence in the relationship, and in themselves. They constantly second-guess themselves. In relationships with others, they wait for the ‘punchline’ where they are rejected, so don’t form strong bonds, not wanting to invest too much of themselves before the ‘inevitable’ occurs.

Our kids need to feel secure, in who they are, and in their place in the world. As parents, it’s our job to nurture this from infancy. 

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