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Simple Secrets That Create Happy Family Memories

By Michele Borba, EdD

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

What’s more, those home traditions and customs also increase our kids’ social skills and development. Here are nine simple, no-cost secrets moms are using to create happy memories. What are you doing to preserve memories of your times together?

Nighttime rituals Read a nighttime story. Remind each other of the best part of the day; give hugs and kiss goodnight. With older kids, reconvene in the kitchen for a nighttime snack around 9:30. Then everyone gets a goodnight send-off: a kiss, a backrub, affirm love for one another, and it’s off to bed (or in some cases, back to homework).

Special greetings and ways to say “I love you” Rub noses for an “Eskimo kiss.”Create your own unique family funny hugs.

Celebration of successes 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.

Birthday memories Each family member chooses a favorite birthday dinner menu, cake, and outing. 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.

Musical memories Choose special songs to be piped through the household for family events. For a birthday, have your whole family wake-up to the Beatles singing, “Today is your birthday…gonna have a good time.” Bruce Springsteen can remind your family it’s the Fourth of July by singing “Born in the USA.”

Sports and outdoors Go fishing on Father’s Day. Be diehard Bluejay fans together. Go berry-picking every spring. Have relay races and egg tosses at family picnics.

Volunteering and service projects Bake an extra turkey for Mrs. Jones at Thanksgiving. Serve Christmas Eve dinner at the homeless shelter, or help out at another, less “popular” time of year. Make a commitment to help a favorite charity as a family once a week or month.

Enjoy each other’s company Spread a rug or towel on your living room floor and gather the troops; serve simple sandwiches, finger food, and boxed drinks, put on some upbeat music, and have an indoor picnic. Who says you have to go anywhere to have a good time together?

Family Game Night Dust off the Chutes and Ladders, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Candyland, or that old deck of cards. Older kids might like Trouble, Uno, Kerplunk, Risk, or poker. Some families hold Family Game Night once a week for thirty minutes to an hour. Have an assortment and let a different family member choose what you play each time.

When I surveyed hundreds of moms about what really matters in good mothering, creating family rituals and traditions always came up in the top of their lists. Why? Because they didn’t have to take much time or money, and they create joy and laughter in the family and wonderful memories that last a lifetime. Here are the steps to begin creating new rituals in your home.

Four Steps to Creating Family Rituals and Increasing the Laughter in Your Family

Step One: Begin by Making a List of New Traditions You’d Like to Start in Your Home. Let your brain go wild and allow your only rule to be “anything goes” at this stage. You might want to ask other moms, and ask your kids for ideas. Also, think back on your own family traditions when you were growing up and include any that you were fond of.

Step Two: Now Choose One Idea You Want to Begin With. One mom said she got into the habit of always putting her makeup on with her four-year-old daughter next to her. Another mom makes a tradition of taking her son out for hot cocoa after school every Wednesday. It really doesn’t matter what the ritual is, as long as it’s one your family enjoys doing together.

Step Three: Write Down the Tradition—Ink It. Put the ritual in your Palm Pilot or include it on your weekly calendar. Or tell your family. Saying and writing it add commitment (you’ll also have someone to help remind you to do it). Research says the sooner you begin, (suggestion: within twenty-four hours), the greater the likelihood you’ll stick to it.

Step Four: Plan It, Do It! Celebrate success…and keep at it. You’re on the road to creating family memories.

Whatever ritual you choose to do, make it become a family habit. Traditions are sacred and must be consistently honored every night, week, month, or once a year. This is the stuff that is meant to bond families and make you closer.