“You don’t always have to be doing something with your children. Just being home and in the same room is often enough.” That’s something I noted in my book, Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day. That was then…when home life was fragmented and finding time to be together a rarity and a treat.
With schools and most offices closed and social distancing in place, being home pretty much 24/7, sometimes getting on each other’s nerves and worried, is our new reality. Unless you have infants or toddlers, your children will remember the Coronavirus pandemic that turned their and their parents’ lives upside down. Nonetheless, you can create lasting positive memories.
We are all being tested and it’s not easy having everyone in close proximity for extended periods and remain positive in the face of our own anxiety. At the same time, social distancing is an opportunity to make your children feel secure and to tighten your bond.
In a study of autobiographical memory, Dr. Susan Bluck, who directs the Story Lab at the University of Florida and her co-authors asked, “What do individuals use the memories of their life for?” Among other things, they discovered that memories are important for “maintaining warmth (e.g., empathy) and social bonding in existing relationships.”
How you cope with and address the new reality is key to building memories. Beyond relaxing rules and letting go of perfection, the easy challenges below focus on being a family and creating new rituals that may well become traditions once we all get back to some semblance of life before the Coronavirus pandemic.
15 Simple Challenges to Create Lasting Positive Memories
Naming a challenge makes it more memorable and repetition is the key to ensuring it sticks in your child’s memory bank. You may even specify a time of day for some of them giving your children something to look forward to.
The labels I’ve used may not suit you; be creative and design your own. Whatever challenges you choose will help to make lasting positive impressions on your children while we all practice social distancing.
- Rule Breaker. Break one of rules you put in place to keep your household running smoothly or to be sure your children completed their assigned schoolwork. Or, extend your children’s online screen time with friends, for instance. Every time you relax a restriction or change a schedule you have in place., announce, “Rule Break.”
- Helper Bee. Do one of your child’s chores—just for today.
- Pusher. Farther is better. If you run, walk or bicycle ride with your children, increase the distance a little each day. They may groan initially, then be proud of their achievements.
- Winner Takes All. Challenge your children to a card game or board game you enjoy because children know when you are not having fun. Keep a running score with a prize awarded at the end of a week or designated timeframe.
- Dessert Monster. Unexpectedly announce and serve “Double desserts!”
- Dinner Mix Up. Serve breakfast for dinner—pancakes, bacon and eggs, waffles…
- Where’s Charlie? Initiate a new wake-up or bedtime routine: Mom or Dad singing, a hunt for Charlie, the favorite stuffed animal, two hugs and four top of head kisses, or allow the dog on your child’s bed.
- Mom’s Off. Give children responsibilities they have asked for or you want them to assume. Planning dinner and cooking it now and then, for example.
- New Rules. What do your kids want changed? Set up a complaint bowl or basket. Invite your children to write their complaints and drop them in for you to review. Or, ask them at dinner. Remember, this is a time to be flexible, parents.
- Kind, Kinder, Kindest. Ask your children to share one kind, caring thing they did today…or plan to do tomorrow. Offer yours to get them started.
- Game Changer. Chess, Parcheesi, Backgammon or Bridge. Don’t know how to play? Learn it together. Or, play checkers or Dominos with younger children. Teach your child a card trick or card game.
- Explorer. Research places on the Internet that you would like to visit eventually as a family.
- Note Dropper. Leave an “I Love You” note in your child’s room, in a schoolbook, or on the kitchen counter for him to discover once a week or more often.
- Head Counselor. Camp out in the living room with your children or on occasion or allow them to build forts with pillows and blankets in a playroom, the den, or another part of the house.
- All Hands on Deck. Do a home project together such as building a walkway, fixing a fence, painting a room, preparing or planting the garden and deciding what you will grow, put together old toys or clothes to give away.
The Magic of Memories
Easy? Right. Not much effort on your part and huge dividends for your children. You’re setting up rituals and enjoying family fun that will carry way beyond these days of “confinement.” And, your children will likely use some of them with their own children.
There is magic in memory making, and the mundane is often what children remember and cherish—like breakfast for dinner. It’s as simple as that when you want to create lasting positive memories.
For more tradition building ideas, check out Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day