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Creating positive memories together helps families build strong bonds that stand the test of time. Not only do families who have fun together look back on their experiences and laugh or smile, but they are also better able to support each other through life’s trials and tribulations.

Research shows that people who recall their childhood fondly tend to be happier, healthier, and in better shape mentally and physically. [1] There is even some evidence that children who have regular experiences of happiness have larger hippocampi, the region of the brain that affects memory, stress, and learning.

Studies also show that teenagers who have a bank of positive memories to draw upon are less likely to experience depression.[2] They are more equipped to deal with stress and have more resiliency when things don’t go their way. Think of it as the ‘glass half full’ mentality. Of course, depression has a biochemical component that cannot be ‘cured’ by developing happy memories. However, resilience in the face of stress and setbacks is a valuable tool that can lower cortisol (a stress hormone) and prevent the onset of depressive episodes.

While the science is important, it’s also just plain awesome to have fun and build great memories with your kids! Here are some tried and tested simple ways to create wonderful memories and positive experiences with your family.

Point out their positives

t’s very easy to point out someone’s flaws and foibles, but do you take the time to commend and compliment them for their positives? Make a conscious effort to tell your child or teen about all of the things you like about their behaviour, rather than reprimanding them when they fall out of line.[3] You’ll boost their self-esteem and foster a warm and trusting environment in your home.

Immerse yourself in make-believe!

As we get older, we often lose the magical ability to immerse ourselves in a world of fanciful make-believe and just PLAY! Kids absolutely adore it when their parents join in on the fun of play, and it improves their cognition and stress levels.[4] Build a fort out of sofa cushions and blankets. Weave storylines for Barbies and toy cars. Engage in a rollicking game of hide-and-seek or tag. No matter what, just let loose, suspend disbelief, and have a blast.

Play a sport together

Sport is a brilliant way to build camaraderie, encourage healthy competition, and just have a lot of fun! Even if you aren’t a strong athlete, engaging in sport is a healthy and wholesome way for the entire family to connect and build bonds. You’re not limited to basketball or football – go bowling, head to the crazy golf centre, or try your hand at rock climbing together.

Inside jokes are the gifts that keep on giving

Every family has its own inside jokes, and they help to build bonds and get everyone laughing. Consider buying gifts and tokens that relate to your family’s most treasured inside jokes – they’ll go over like gangbusters. A fingerprint necklace is one way to remind your kids of the best times that you’ve all had together – it’s as unique as your family.

Plant a garden as a family

Not only will planting a garden get you working together as a family, you’ll teach your children a valuable skill that they can use throughout their entire life. There’s something special about getting your hands dirty and watching your efforts pay off as green shoots start appearing and you harvest your first crops. Cook a meal together with the fruits (and veg) of your labour, and make sure to document everything for your scrapbook.

Book a professional photographer

Sure, we all have a million phone camera photos of our families, but hiring a professional photographer is a special occasion. Everyone gets dolled up in their very best, and the setting, lighting, and poses are perfect. Give these photos pride of place home to show your kids just how much you value them. What better way to jog your happy memories than by looking back at them through the eyes of a pro?

Plan your holidays together with a focus on kid-friendly activities

When you’re planning your next holiday, gather your kids around and get them involved in the entire process.[5] Let them look at the weather forecast, pick and choose accommodation, and go through a list of potential activities nearby. Are they interested in visiting a castle, or would they prefer a surf lesson? Let them make the decision. When it comes time to engage in the activities they chose, they’ll feel proud and excited, and you can really hype their sense of ownership and compliment their choices. You’ll be amazed at how much everyone will enjoy the holiday that you all planned together!

Get the extended family involved

Your family is so much more than your nuclear unit – you have a whole family tree that tells the story of who you are. Get your extended family involved in your kids’ lives at a young age. Grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and even second and third cousins all have fascinating stories and family lore – have your child ask plenty of questions. They can also conduct ‘interviews’ and document the history of the family on both sides. For a bigger project, create a family website on which your kids can store photos, recorded interviews, and videos of the whole clan.

Eat together as a family around the dinner table

Eating together around the dinner table is an essential part of family bonding. Numerous studies show that children who eat with their families have better test scores, fewer behavioural problems, and healthier BMIs.[6]  Turning off the TV and chatting with your kids over your evening (and even breakfast) meal can boost their self-esteem and set them up for success. It also gives the whole family a chance to connect at the end of a long day.

Make a creative family scrapbook

These days we tend to document our lives on social media platforms. However, there is something to be said for an old-fashioned hardcopy that your kids can create and handle without any screen time. Scrapbooking is a brilliant way to get everyone involved – include photos, colouring projects, collages, and written accounts of special days. You can all really go wild with decoration, and it will be a joy to watch your kids’ printing and drawing abilities improve over the years. These scrapbooks will become treasured keepsakes, so make sure that you make enough so that each child can one day have their own.

Create a family gratitude journal

Scrapbooking is colourful and artistic, but writing is also a worthwhile pursuit. Create a family journal in which you document your lives. Write down your activities and the things you are all grateful for at least once per week. Studies show that documenting our gratitude can improve our outlook on life, and even alleviate depression and anxiety.[7] When your kids or teens are feeling down, they can go to the family journal and look back at better times – it really puts everything into perspective.

Go for a swim together – or just splash around

What is it about swimming that makes kids go bananas? How many times have you heard about families that go to Disneyland, but the kids don’t want to leave the modest hotel pool? Yet once the kids are old enough to swim on their own, parents so often stay on the side lines, letting their kids have all the fun in the water. If your kid loves the pool (or the river, or the sea) that much on their own, they’ll be over the moon when you join in on the fun.

Don’t stress over negative memories – life happens

With all this talk of building positive memories, you might feel that your job as a parent is to prevent negative memories from occurring. This is, quite simply, impossible.

Negative things (and the memories that happen as a result) will always occur – a beloved pet will die, an accident will happen, or someone’s feelings will get hurt. That’s life. However, when your child has a bank of positive memories they can draw from, this can help to balance and counteract negative experiences. Instead of thinking, ‘nothing good ever happens,’ your children will remember the good times, and understand that while life has its ‘downs,’ it also has plenty of ‘ups.’

After all, they have the memories to prove it.

 


Reference list

Fiese, B.H., Foley, K.P. and Spagnola, M. (2016). Routine and ritual elements in family mealtimes: Contexts for child well-being and family identity. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2006(111), pp.67–89.

Hartwell-Walker, M. and read, EDL updated: 8 J. 2018 ~ 3 min (2017). 5 Ways to Make Happy Family Memories. [online] psychcentral.com. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-ways-to-make-happy-family-memories/ [Accessed 15 Aug. 2020].

Harvard Health Publishing (2019). Giving thanks can make you happier – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier [Accessed 17 Aug. 2020].

Narvaez, D. (2019). Why Play With a Child? [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/moral-landscapes/201404/why-play-child [Accessed 16 Aug. 2020].

Raising Children (2016). Encouraging good behaviour: 15 tips. [online] Raising Children Network. Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/behaviour/encouraging-good-behaviour/good-behaviour-tips [Accessed 17 Aug. 2020].

Shellenbarger, S. (2017). Dare to Let the Children Plan Your Vacation. Wall Street Journal. [online] 16 May. Available at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/dare-to-let-the-children-plan-your-vacation-1494947476 [Accessed 17 Aug. 2020].

Walton, A. (2019). The Power of Happy Memories. [online] The Doctor Will See You Now. Available at: http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/depression/art5774.html [Accessed 15 Aug. 2020].

 

[1] https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-ways-to-make-happy-family-memories/

[2] http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/depression/art5774.html

[3] https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/behaviour/encouraging-good-behaviour/good-behaviour-tips

[4] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/moral-landscapes/201404/why-play-child

[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/dare-to-let-the-children-plan-your-vacation-1494947476

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16646500/

[7] https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

 

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