Parenting · Single Parents

My List of Small Changes That Pack a Big Punch

Last week, I shared a post encouraging you to focus on small changes to move you forward or improve your current situation. This week, I thought I’d offer you some examples of small changes that can add up to big changes for families. 

Part of the reason people feel so overwhelmed is because they hear all these experts telling them so many ways to take care of themselves and their families. Rarely do you hear someone say, “Pick one to-do and see what happens.” I am telling you to do that because even small changes can ultimately make a big difference.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for you to try. See if they work for your family the way they have for mine and other families. If not, try something else. The idea is to find small, incremental changes that have a positive impact on your life.

Talk everyday about one thing for which you are grateful

Spend just a few minutes talking, but make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak. If you want, start off with a discussion on one thing that is making you crazy right now. Then end on a positive note by discussing what makes you feel grateful.

Set a bedtime and stick to a routine most nights

You can be a little more loose on the weekends, but even then, keep it within reason. Havoc in families often occurs because people are tired and cranky, especially during the summer. Children of all ages, even teenagers, and parents need to get enough sleep, and a specific bedtime and routine can help. In fact, I believe this one action could improve everything because people will be rested and better equipped to handle the struggles of the day.

A basic nightly ritual like taking a shower or bath, turning off the screens and reading can help everyone fall asleep and sleep more soundly. Ideally you stagger bedtimes, so parents have some time alone after the kids have fallen asleep. For two weeks, try putting your kids and yourselves to bed at a reasonable hour. You will be amazed at how much better you feel.

Start making dinner time a family affair once or twice a week

I get it. Preparing meals can be a challenge on top of everything else. That’s why I suggest you include your family in the process. Give everyone a job for both before and after the meal. For example, if you have three people in your family, three jobs beforehand might be, filling drink glasses, setting the table and preparing food. Three jobs after could be, putting dishes in the dishwasher, sweeping the floor or wiping off the table. The jobs can rotate for every meal.

And my No. 1 rule? No one leaves the kitchen until it is cleaned and all jobs are done. Kids will usually pick up the pace, and if they don’t, turn on some music and make it a race. It turns a boring chore into a fun family game.

Burn up some energy

Emotions are energy. Everyone in the family needs a way to release that energy and emotion. It can be a family affair or something you each do solo, such as riding a bike, taking a long evening walk, swimming, creating a makeshift slip and slide, skateboarding, or playing basketball, volleyball or tennis. Exercise releases endorphins and will help everyone feel and sleep better.

Create time to rest

During the summer, on weekends and especially if you are doing virtual learning, everyone needs breaks from one another. When kids and parents are together all the time, that get irritated and conflicts occur. Make sure you establish a rest time at some point every day for an hour or two.

You decide if screens are allowed during the time, but the rule is that everyone rests, including you. This is not the time to clean out your closet or catch up on work. Everyone should go to their own space for some quiet time to read, relax, play, do arts and crafts, listen to music or even watch a little TV. You do not need to entertain your children every second of the day.

Plan an activity each week that everyone looks forward to

The activities do not need to be elaborate; just something different. Have a water balloon fight or make an obstacle course or pillow fort, camp in the yard, or have a board game night. Learn to cook something new together or have a movie night. Ask your kids to come up with some ideas for your special family time too.

Take time every day to get off the screens

The rule should apply to everyone in the family, in order for it to work.  You can break out a board game, puzzle or craft during the time, but it’s not necessary for you to fill the time with activities. It’s okay for your kids to be bored sometimes, and it just might motivate them to do something else with their time, like go outside and burn up some energy!

Take time outs

Have a code word that everyone agrees to that you use when people start squabbling. When one person uses it, everyone goes to their room for 10 minutes, and each person does activities to do that helps to calm them down, such as exercising, listening to music, playing with slime or play dough, or reading. After 10 minutes, everyone comes back and moves on. 

All of these are small tasks that can bring tremendous growth and joy to your family. Try one or two out this week, and come back next week to share how it went in the comments section!

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