All the expectation and excitement of Christmas is over and most of us are feeling tired and probably a bit flat at the prospect of a long January ahead. Inevitably many of us are making sincere resolutions about self -improvement and often about how to create a better family life over the next year. We crave a calmer atmosphere, more cooperation and better behaviour from our children. I’ve been enjoying reading Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s new book, “Feel better in Five”, in which he offers 5 minute “health snacks” to improve our well-being. He talks about how often our best intentions do not bear fruit, mainly because we start too big! We initially have lots of motivation for change, but then falter after a few days and weeks because it’s all too difficult.
It started me thinking about how we can feel better as a family by following the same approach of using bite sized chunks? It all starts with improving our communication and connections with each other. Without this, there will be no cooperation! The easiest and most effective way to do this with children is by a regular dose of play. In fact, even teenagers benefit from this regular interaction with their parents, even though “play” may look quite different. We are really talking about a regular daily “special time” to connect and relax without interruption or technology. It can be playing with toys, reading a book, making a hot chocolate, going for a walk or talking about your day. It’s not what you do that matters, it’s simply about being interested in your child. The exciting thing about this is that you only need to 10 minutes a day for it to start creating a better relationship.
It’s helpful, as Dr Chatterjee suggests, to carve out a regular time for this each day and to piggy back it on to existing habits. Find the best time for you and your child. It may be after your evening meal, before bath time or when you get in from the school run. Don’t underestimate the value of this repeated habit. It not only helps you to communicate with your child, but also to understand what they enjoy, see them from a different perspective and enjoy a bit of stress- free time with them. You may find that you gain some insights into anything they are worried about too. There are lots of ways to build on this to improve family life, but without a warm connection, the chance for success is severely limited. Commit to 10 minutes every day to play and connect and see the positive results for a happier new year!