“Say One Thing You Are Thankful For About Your Family” Thanksgiving Activity

Thanksgiving animated picture nov 2015

Want to encourage your family to be thankful and appreciative of one another? I am always trying to think of ways to encourage this kind of interaction to take place in my own family and with the families I work with. We might remember to be thankful of those outside our family, but at times we overlook those closest to us. So let’s use Thanksgiving as a start point in remembering to show our thankfulness for our loved ones.

I have always liked the activity at Thanksgiving where you go around and tell one thing you are thankful for.This is a fun one to do around the dinner table.  This is fairly easy for most people to do. Most of us can think of one thing that we are thankful for. It is good to remind folks it can be a small thing. It does not have to be large. I have enjoyed this version, But I am thinking of another version for this Thanksgiving that I thought I might share.

“Say One Thing You Are Thankful For About Your Family.”

In this version you are encouraging the family to reflect about what they like about their family as a whole. It is easy to take family for granted. And Thanksgiving is a perfect time to think about this. Now it may be that you do not like everything or very much about your family. But my guess is that with some thought you can think of one thing you are grateful for. I might note that family can be the family you have created and gave birth to or it can be your family of origin.

If you really can not do this version, then go back to what you are in general thankful for. But you can use this as a time to think to yourself or with your partner or spouse what family attributes you wish to create that later your children will be thankful for. That is a bit deeper. But sometimes thinking ahead can be a good thing. What we project out is many times what we get back. It is sort of like goal setting or creating an intention.

I wish you all the very best of Thanksgivings!

Thankful orange picture with branches be thankful



Happy Journals, Happy Families

journal picture IMG_7984 (2) november 2015

I sometimes suggest a “Happy Journal” for a client who needs to do more focusing on the “happy stuff”. I at times will ask the entire family to partake in this simple, but very effective activity. I always like to remind folks that “what we focus on is what we get more of”. Thus, for those who want to have a happier family here is a tool to encourage your family to look for the happy in their lives.

The Set Up for Beginning Your Happy Journal Family Adventure

  1. Have a family meeting where you set down and explain what you are going to do as a family. “Because we want to focus on the good or what makes us happy, we have decided we are all going to keep happy journals. What we focus on we get more of. So here is a way to put more focus on the happy.”
  2. Have family members choose from a variety of decorative spiral notebooks or journals as to what they like the most. I would suggest that you buy a few more than you need so that there will be some choice for everyone. Plus you can pick out ones that you know will be a hit with each of your family members. If you have young children or those who like to draw you may want to include some that are blank paged journals.
  3. Suggest that everyone write in their “happy journal” everyday. “We would like for everyone to write down something in their happy journal everyday. This way it gets to be a habit for us all to think more about the “happy stuff” that is going on in our lives.” You can suggest that everyone try to think of 3 things that made them feel happy that day. Or whatever number of things that you feel would work with your family. Or you could leave it open ended, with no set number.
  4. Each person can write or draw what made them happy that day. This is helpful for those who are not writing yet or for those who prefer to express themselves in this way.
  5. Maximize or let your happy experiences grow by sharing them with one another.  This could be done in a set way or a more spontaneous way.  Some possible more structured ways of sharing might be: sharing at the dinner table every night one happy thing that everyone is planning on writing in their happy journal or sharing at bedtime with each other. Sometimes tying an activity to a routine already in place can help. In a more spontaneous way, you might ask your child, “What have you found to put in your happy journal lately?”
  6. All family members participating makes this a very powerful activity. When children and teens see there moms or dads write down what is making them happy and sharing this, they will see that this is a family value or something that is important – to focus on the happy stuff or the good.

I hope you will try this whether your family is just you as a couple or if you are a couple with a young child or if you are a single parent family or a blended one. It is all good, encouraging each other to see the happy things that are all around us!!!

Bixby “Pumpkin Patch” – A Fun Family or Couple Activity

pumpkins with people and counry in background at pumpkin patch IMG_7755 (2)

If you have not been to Bixby’s Pumpkin Patch in a while, you should go check it out. We had not been in a couple of years and were surprised at the wide variety of things to do. This would be a wonderful fall break activity or any time in October. Their last day is October 31. So you have a few more weekends to have a bit of fun in the Bixby countryside. For those of you that do not know, Bixby is South of Tulsa, going straight out on Memorial. Bixby is known as one of Oklahoma’s strong produce areas due to its rich dark soil, being close to the Arkansas river.

Here are the “basic’s” as to info on the Pumpkin Patch:

What: “The Pumpkin Patch”, which is associated with Carmichael’s Produce on South Memorial (but not at the same location)  has pumpkins of all sizes, colors and shapes , plus other decorative fall produce and corn stalks. Animals (lots of babies and mamas) of all kinds. Camel Rides. A Cane Maze. A Pony Go Round with Live Ponies. Hay Bale Climbing Area. Wagon Ride.  A Concession Stand. And more.

Where: 17137 S. Mingo, Bixby, OK (South East Corner of 171st and Mingo). Steve Carmichael suggested I remind folks that you will need to go down Memorial and over the Arkansas river into Bixby before you can access Mingo in the Bixby area.  This is slightly into the country. Yahoo! The best contact number is: 918-366-4728. This is Carmichael’s Produce number and they are best able to answer questions for you about the Pumpkin Patch.

When: Current – October 31, 2015. 9:00 am – 7:00 pm   Monday – Saturday   &   10:00 am – 7:00 pm Sunday

Why: For a Very Fun Fall Family or Couple Activity. For all ages.  And there is no entrance fee.

Come take a picture tour of some of the things to see and do at the “Pumpkin Patch”

goat mama with two babies one nursing pumpkin patch

Mama Goat and her Babies

sheep pair at pumpkin patch

A Pair of Beautifully Marked Sheep

porcqupine at pumpkin patch close up

A Gorgeous Porcupine

rabbit close up at pumpkin patch FullSizeRender (21)

A Pretty Rabbit

There are many more animals to enjoy, but too numerous to include. You will find chickens, pigs, horses, camels and more. So if you are an animal lover, you will love this. Many of the children were enjoying feeding all of these sweet creatures.

pony carosel with real ponies at pumpkin patch

A Fun Real Pony Carousel

tanna in maize maze at pumpkin patch

Enter the Cane Maze

This was actually much larger than we realized. It was so much fun to weave in and out of the paths. Scare Crows were placed throughout the maze. A fun walk for a family or as a couple. So hope you will consider this fun venue that is only open in October. Here is to lots of fall fun!

Five Tips in Forming a Good Parent Teacher Relationship

teacher by chalk board and apple animated aug 2015 clip art

It is that time of year. It is back to school for your children. You may have some anxiety about what the new teacher or teachers will be like. Will they be nice? Will they be strict? Will they work with you as a parent?  We just want the best for our children. One thing that can give your child an extra boost is if you have a good parent teacher relationship. Teachers are human and they cannot help but let parents affect their view of the child in their classroom. So you may want to consider the following tips in regard to developing a good connection with your child’s teacher or teachers.

teacher parent child meeting clip art illustrated august 19 2015

Five Tips to Form a Good Parent Teacher Relationship

  1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF. BE FRIENDLY. Take advantage of all open houses, back to school nights or any event that the teacher is involved with. Make a point to have a positive conversation with your child’s new teacher. Talk about how you have heard good things about her or compliment how the room is set up, etc.
  2. BE A HELPER. BE A SUPPORTER. Teachers are so many times overwhelmed with lots to do. The more help they have the better teachers they can be and the more cool experiences they can offer their students. And the more they will see you and your child in a positive light. Plus, it will feel good to help your child’s school. And an opportunity to be in the know about your child’s school and a little more about the world your child lives in the majority of their day. There are many ways to help and support the teacher. Ask if you are not sure.
  3. TALK FRIENDLY ABOUT YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER.  This would be directly to your child and while your child may be listening to a conversation you are having with another . If you are positive about your child’s teacher, it is more likely your child will be as well. In addition, when you try to focus on the strengths of your child’s teacher this will aid in a more positive relationship with the teacher.  This is not to say that we do not address concerns and problems. We do, respectfully and with some positive relationship going in that can help when working on problems.
  4. BE A POSITIVE COOPERATIVE PROBLEM SOLVER. When you hear about an issue that is not resolving itself, work with your teacher to find positive ways to address the issue. If your child’s teacher approaches you for a meeting or phone conversation, etc. try to stay calm and objective and really listen to what your child’s teacher is saying. Reflecting back or summarizing what they have said can make them feel very heard. This is always the first step in good communication is really listening and hearing one another. So after you have really heard what your child’s teacher has to say, they will be more open to hearing what you have to say about the issue at hand. Being respectful and cooperative in our responses and how we approach a problem will go a long way in gaining cooperation from a teacher. Ask how you can help. Try to gain ideas on what concrete things can be done to help with the situation. You are on your way to being a collaborative problem solver. A team working together for your child.
  5. GO THE EXTRA MILE – SHOW APPRECIATION. There is nothing more relationship building as APPRECIATION. We all want to be acknowledged and appreciated. Teachers love to be appreciated. So consider what is most appropriate for your child’s teacher. The age of your child will make a difference of course. You will have different appreciation strategies for a kindergarten teacher and a high school teacher. Some will be the same, but others different. All teachers appreciate a hand written note or card that is specific in how you appreciate them. An email note (if you have access to this) can work as well. Sometimes a note to the principal of how you appreciate your child’s teacher can be powerful  Of course, verbal praise or appreciation or acknowledgement is always a winner. Plus, for younger children’s teachers small gifts at appropriate times creates positive feelings. Traditional times for notes, cards and gifts are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentines Day. But appreciation creates good feelings any time of the year.

teacher in red cape with T on shirt illustrated clip art august 19


The key to a good parent teacher relationship is really like any good relationship. One in which there is respectful, positive communication with sharing of gratitude and appreciation. This solid foundation creates a space in which problems can be worked on in a collaborative fashion. Best of wishes in creating a positive parent teacher relationship!

A Very Simple Calming Breathing Technique for All Ages

pink rose from tanna's back yard

Looking for a way to calm yourself or help your child calm himself. Try this very simple breathing technique. What makes it a bit different is that it is extremely simple and tries  to incorporate your memory of a pleasant sight and smell. And most of all it is Simple, Simple, Simple. And I have decided so many times those are the things we can remember easily if we are feeling stressed and over the top.

Here is my version of this simple technique:


1. Visualize a beautiful rose. Or you could imagine a rose garden if you wanted. Maybe your favorite color of rose or roses. (If you are explaining to a child, you might say “Think about a beautiful rose.”)

2. Take a deep breath and smell your rose. (Remember the wonderful smell of a rose and keep this in mind as you are breathing in your rose.)

3. Hold the wonderful smell for a few moments. (This would be at the top of your incoming breath. Hold in that great smell, enjoying it.)

4. Let your breath come out with a sigh or just naturally as you think of your rose.

5. Continue smelling roses until you feel calmer.


Alternatives to the Rose:

  • You can of course use any flower that you love and that you like the smell of.
  • You can also choose another sight that has a pleasant smell that you particularly like. This might be the ocean and the smell of the ocean OR it might be trees in a forest and the smell of a forest. This of course will be an individual thing as to what fits for you.

You might consider if you want to do the rose as your “calming anchor” to make sure you on purpose smell some roses outside or at a flower market and breath in their fragrance and do this exercise to build in a memory.

I have decided you never know where you might pick up a good idea. In this case, I was watching the movie, Danny Collins. There is a part where his young granddaughter is having trouble calming herself. Danny’s granddaughter has a diagnosis of ADHD.  The father tells her to remember her rose and then he walks his daughter through a similar kind of exercise that I have added to a bit.  I always want to give credit to sources that inspire or plant a seed for an idea for me.

I wish you the best in finding your own special rose or rose garden!



“Inside Out” Movie – It may not be what you think . . .

inside out feeling control panel

I decided as a family therapist I should go check out the new movie, INSIDE OUT. As I knew I would have children talking with me about what they saw and their reactions to it. Plus, a nice lead in as to talking about feelings. What I found is that INSIDE OUT is probably really suited  best for older children and adults. I found lots of adult couples taking the show in the day I went. And for good reason, the messages are really best for those with some abstract reasoning.

The show is coming from the perspective of 11-year-old Riley’s feelings. The “stars” of the movie are: Joy, Fear, Angry, Disgust, and Sadness. Riley’s mind or “command center” is directing her actions. Riley has just moved to a new city due to Dad’s new job.  Riley’s past experiences have been happy ones in general and the move and transition to a new city and new school has her confused and upset as she tries to transition to her new life.

You might ask so what are some of the core messages that someone might come away with? Well for me I found the following:

inside out joy and sadness looking at memory globe

  1. All feeling are helpful. It is sort of interesting that in this movie, Sadness  turns out to be the hero and saves the day. We sometimes feel we have to work hard not to be sad, when really we need to let our children and loved ones know it is ok to be sad. That sometimes acknowledging the sadness can help us back to the happy feelings we want to have. And yes, there is a time when we need to move past sadness and move on to more positive feelings. Our feelings let us know if we need a course correction. And sometimes this is a bit of a journey.
  2. We are constantly making memories and those memories will have our own individual filter, which may be different from others.  I think that as parents we have to remember our children and for that matter our spouses or partners will not always see things as we do.
  3. “Being With” our loved one is one of the most important things we can do when they are going through a hard time. I do think that in the end this message comes through with the 11-year-old Riley connecting with her parents and beginning to feel better.
  4. It is never too late to process our feelings and make sense of them.  Even if we have gone through a hard time and things are not going well, we can always shift gears and come back and understand what has happened and work through it.

I like to tell my clients (children and adults alike) that feelings are our friends. They are our emotional guidance systems. They help us know what is really going on with us and what we may need to do to get back to where we want to be.

All this said, this movie is not a light, happy-go-lucky movie. And some feel it is sad or a bit dark. I had an elementary aged boy tell me recently he thought the movie was sad. When I asked which part, he said lots of parts. This was his individual perspective. There are some fun, humor parts. Some of these parts of intended for children and some for adults. The movie does has more depth than some folks would anticipate though.

I did feel the movie probably over simplified how memory works. And put a bit of a dark spin on it. Even though I do know that negative memories do have more affect on us than the positive ones. One reason we want to try to keep the happy memories at a much higher level to keep them in place in our brains.

inside out riley and her family

http://www.commonsensemeda.org is an organization that can be helpful at times in giving some thoughtful insight for parents in movies that come out. Some of the parents on this site who reviewed this movie had some concerns about the incident were the main character 11-year-old Riley steals her mom’s credit card and runs away and when she is re-united with her parents that they do not have a discussion with her about these actions. Another reviewer talks about preschool children crying over sad incidents in the movie. Most of the positive reviews tended to come from parents who had older elementary children or teens.

Note:  As with all movies parents have the huge responsibility of deciding what is a good fit for their individual child and what they are ready to see. Not an easy thing. This movie is probably best for children who have some abstract reasoning in place.

We can always have discussion with our children after viewing a movie. I think one of the best part of a movie is the dialogue it creates. So if you feel there was a missing piece then by all means talk with your child about it.

If you are not feeling sure what you think as to your child seeing this movie, you could do a date night and go see it as parents first. This I think is always a helpful strategy for a movie we are not sure about. I do feel this movie does a nice job of highlighting for parents some of the core messages I mentioned above.

Best wishes in deciding if your child is ready for this one. If they are, there are some good core messages to glean from it.

Please note that pictures are taken from the Disney / Pixar website.




The Oklahoma Renaissance Festival – Last Two Weekends for This Family Friendly Activity


This last weekend we went to the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival in Muskogee, OK. It is held at the Castle of Muskogee. This was our first time to attend this festival that recreates a 16th Century Renaissance English Village. The festival has a nice mix of performers and artisans and hands on activities and unique merchants and lots of food of course. This is a family friendly event. But it does appear that  for toddlers and pre-schoolers it may not be an ideal activity. If you decide to give it a try with very young children, you will find there are some activities that will be workable.  This would be the case for pre-schoolers opposed to toddlers. There appears to be something for almost all ages. It is a unique festival with lots of educational information about this Renaissance time period.




Some of the performances that are part of the festival are the following:

In the Tournament Arena: Twice a day there is a Jousting Event.  We did have an opportunity to witness this event and found it very entertaining.  There is a Birds of Prey Performance in which you will see Falconers working with owls, buzzards, hawks and a falcon. You can experience Bronze Bells Music if you wish. I know there is a Scottish Bagpipes Performance as well.  This is only a partial listing.

On Somer’s Field: you will witness and participate if you like in a Maypole Dance.

At the Dragon’s Stage: Bob the Juggler performs.

You will find musicians and dancers and performers in the Village Center, the Crown Inn, at the Castle Keepe and in the Gypsy Camp. The Swordsmen are in the Italian Piazza and The Brothers Dimm are on the Mud Stage and much, much more.



 The Woodlands are set up specifically for children. Activities such as making paper and marbles are activities for children to experience. Plus special games are available.


There is a set schedule for performances.  You might consider buying the one dollar guidebook which has this schedule. You can also get information on the events and schedule online at okcastle.com .  I would encourage you to check out their website so you can know what is available and go to those areas first if they are of special interest to you. This is something we did not do that I feel would have been helpful. We loved what we found in a spontaneous fashion but we also missed a few performances that I wish we would have known about.

 renassaise men in costume may 2015


You will find the staff all in period dress of course. What I was surprised about was that many of the folks who attended where in period dress. We overheard one parent tell her child that they could find one item to add to their growing costume. It appeared that they chose one piece each year to add to their costume. What fun! Each day there is a costume contest at 2:00 pm at the Great Hall.

I hope you will have a chance to check this out if you have not done so in the past. The last day for this season is May 31, 2015. If you have activities you have really enjoyed or have tips for families as to attending this festival, please share.  Thanks! Best wishes for a fun family day.

A Mother’s Day Letter for Your Super Mom

mom in supermom cape

Want a mother’s day gift that your mom will treasure that shows your appreciation and love for her and all she has done?  Or maybe as the dad of children at home you are looking for an idea you can help your children create.  You might consider a “A Mother’s Day Letter”.  This is a wonderful way to focus on all the good that your mom has brought to you and to the world around her.

I was inspired to do this blog piece after reading an article by Reid Tracey, CEO of Hayhouse and his own personal letter to his mom.  And then just an added confirmation that I should champion this cause a bit when a friend recently told me of her adult daughter publishing a letter about her on face book. You can read this letter at the end of my post.

So here are my own thoughts on putting together a Mother’s Day Letter. First of all this could come in more than one format. I have suggested some formats below.

Letter to Your Own Mom

Letters from Your Children to Your Wife

Letter to the Mother of Your Children

Collection  of Letters to Mom (your whole family collecting them and presenting them together)


M green letter with pink flowers


Putting Your Mother’s Day Letter Together

  • Express Your Feelings of Thankfulness & Appreciation.  This can be a fairly comprehensive going back in time to your childhood or it can be a more recent focus. There is no wrong or right way of doing this of course. What do you want to say thank you for? What do you appreciate about her? What makes her so special? 
  • Highlight Times that Stand Out.  There may be a time that you know your mom sacrificed or put her own needs on hold to attend to and help you. You can share your thoughts about this. Or whatever feels like a fit to highlight.
  • Recall Memories that Have Special Meaning For You. We all have memories of happy times or times that stand out for us that are positive. Those can be used in this kind of letter.
  • Use Descriptive Praise.  This is basically writing out in detail your praise. An example: “Mom, I loved all the home cooked meals you made growing up. They were fresh from your garden and hand-made. Not a common thing in today’s world.”
  • Be Positive.   Only focus on the good here. This is not a letter to hash our disagreements or mix the good and not so good together. This is pure love and appreciation. No “barbed praise”.
  • Keep it Real .  Speak from your heart as to your true positive feelings about your mom. Even if you have had a challenging relationship, there are normally some things that you do appreciate that could be written about. Choose those things.
  • Do a Hand Written Letter if Possible    Decide if you want an old-fashioned handwritten letter or a clean, polished computer generated note. I might note that handwritten notes do add a personal touch that you cannot get with a computer note. But that all said they both count and will be appreciated.
  • Choose Some Fun or Elegant Paper. Make it special if you can. But if not no worries, she will still love it.
  • Consider a Drawing, a Poem or Quote to Add.  If you have younger children or teens who like to draw encourage them to include a drawing. She will cherish it forever.  Or if you draw by all means include a drawing to illustrate a point or just a general feeling or something that you feels fits with this letter. Adding a poem that makes you think of her can work well especially if she likes poetry. Or including a quote that is a fit for her can add another component to your letter.
  • Date Your Special Letter.  This extra touch will mean a lot when your special mom looks back in the future.
  • Wrap It Like It  Counts.  Your letter could be put in an especially pretty envelope or one you decorate or you could do a fun shallow decorative box to enclose your letter or letters.  This could also be a great box to store your special letter(s). You can be as creative as you like and you can also keep in mind the mom you are doing this for and what they would like because that is really what counts the most.


mom and child giraffee animated

A Few Thoughts If Creating With Young Children

  • Act as a Scribe for Children Who Cannot Write Yet. They can tell you what they want to say and you can write it down for them. They can maybe sign their name.
  • Have Children Do a Drawing.  This can be a picture of them together or just a pic of her or whatever makes sense to them.
  • Give children some guideposts to help them with their letter. You can ask a set of questions that they can answer. 1) What do you like /love about your mom? 2) What is your favorite thing to do with your mom? 3) What does your mom do for you that you are thankful for? What is your favorite memory of your mom?


Last but not least, I was given consent to post my friend’s letter her young adult daughter wrote to share with her Facebook community. For privacy I have left names off of this letter.

My mother is my best friend, but was also my mentor!

As a child my parents owned a small kid’s shoe store for 12 years, so I grew up working there. As my mother’s health has declined I am so thankful for all of the time I spent growing up working there with my mother. Many of my best childhood memories are working in the store with her. Looking back now I realize all the things she taught me there about business and life in general. My favorite thing was going to market down in Dallas every year. It was better than any expensive vacation. She allowed me to help run the business doing things like managing inventory , reconciling the money every night, training new employees, arranging and maintaining the front area, helping come up with advertising ideas, and so many other things! She inspired my love for business! She shaped me into the person I am today and I am so thankful for every day I have with her. I love seeing franchisees providing this same amazing opportunity to their children!

woman with flowers around her head not photo


I hope you will choose to write a letter to your mom. Our words are so powerful and stay with us for a very long time, especially in written format. Happy Mother’s Day!




Meals that Nourish and Connect You and Your Family

heart of food

Mealtimes can be a powerful ritual  in keeping you emotionally connected to your family. You may be a young couple or a family with small children or maybe a family with teens. Or an empty nest couple. All of these categories apply. When we are all so very busy with our lives having set times that we meet together is important. Mealtimes are a natural time to nourish our bodies physically & emotionally. It is not uncommon for me to hear families talk about all eating at different times or for some taking their food to their own separate space to continue with whatever they were doing – watching tv, playing a computer game, face-booking, continuing a work project, etc. This can be so easy to fall into with our busy lives. Here is some “food for thought” as to how to make mealtimes a powerful  “connect time”.

Consider Your Family and It’s Current Mealtimes.  

  • What do you like about your current mealtimes in your home? What do you want to make sure that you keep in place?
  • What do you NOT like? What do you wish would be happening instead? What would be the first step in doing what you feel is better?
  • Do you have meals together? How often?
  • What is the tone of your mealtimes? Positive? Negative? Lots of sharing or not so much?
  • Are meals viewed as important in your household?
  • Does everyone participate in putting meals together and or cleaning up after?

eating healthy family

Make Your Meals an Awesome Connecting Ritual.

  1. Put Family Meals in Your Schedule. For so many of us, unless we schedule it, it will not happen. It may mean you have to do a healthy snack late afternoon to get everyone through until you can all re-unite.  Or it may mean all eating early to accommodate early evening commitments. The point is to shift  and adapt to make this a priority. There will be times it will not work for all of  you to eat together, but for those that are there, go for this time together. For some very busy families, it may mean having a couple of times a week that are set in place, with an understanding that activities are not to be scheduled in that time frame.  To start with if planning this is very challenging you might do one night a week to begin with.
  2. Let Everyone Have a Part in Meal Preparation and Cleanup . This will be different for different families. You might have one family that rotates children in the kitchen to help the parent who is making the meal or maybe children help clear the table, etc. At our house who ever cooks gets a pass on helping with cleanup.  Do what fits for you and your family.
  3. No texting, No tweeting, No face booking, No phone calls at the dinner table. I am sure I missed a couple here. The point is that this is a special time you have set aside to eat and be together. This includes asking that no screen devices be brought to the table. Just too tempting.  Some families have a basket where all phones are deposited at the beginning of the meal. I would even suggest to keep the environment peaceful that everyone mute their phones. Wouldn’t that be nice. No beeping, buzzing, ringing, etc, etc,   And answering the home phone that is ringing is not ok unless you hear voice mail go through and it is a critical someone is very ill call. I stand a bit firm on this one, I guess because I see a real erosion of family time due to our current management of our very high-tech world we live in. You might consider this training for your children in how to handle screen time when they are with others.
  4. Consider Starting the Meal with a Time of “Gratitude” or “Thankfulness”. This could be in a prayer format if this fits for your family. Or it could be a new ritual you start by each saying something you are grateful for that happened that day. Even in a prayer format you could have each person do their own individual gratitude prayer. If all of this feels uncomfortable, you might just consider talking about these kinds of things during the meal.
  5.  Feeling the “Love” of Family  – Ask that no one disrespect the other or on purpose cause a conflict during mealtimes. Try to frame this as a time for you all to encourage and uplift one another.You can model by asking how each person’s day has been and really listen carefully and give encouragement when needed.
  6. As Parents or as a Couple Choose not to use This as a Time to Talk  About  Problems. Keep your meal times positive. This is not to say you should not address problems. Just at another time.
  7. A Fun Feeling Activity .  One playful way of seeing how things are going for all is to have each person “choose a feeling” and ask each person to tell something that happened to them that day that fits with this feeling. For example: “What is the happiest thing that happened today?” Others might include: saddest, the best thing, the most weird, the most crazy, the funniest thing, the hardest thing, the easiest thing, the most surprising, etc. If a family member draws a blank then the person giving out the feeling state, can throw out another one. Just a fun way of checking out everyone’s day.
  8. Consider Asking All to Stay at the Table until Everyone is Finished Eating.  This is just good manners and showing respect for one another.  And if one does need to leave, maybe encouraging that they excuse themselves with why they need to leave from the table. Just a way to show you care and respect each other. Being respectful is one of the foundations for good relationships.

If you do your own fun mealtime rituals that work well, I would love to hear about them. Here is to lots of meals of connection with your family!

Do I need to be playful and light-hearted to be happy and connected? It depends!

tennis shoes black and white with heart in between

Is it necessary to be playful and show your “fun” side to be happy and connected? I think this depends on what you want from your life. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you might consider the many benefits of having some “play time”. What this means will be different for different folks. There is planned play and then there is random acts of playfulness. Sometimes a mix of both. All are good for you. Play is not just for children. Let’s look at some ways that play is beneficial, some of the components of healthy, restorative play and some thoughts on both planned play and random acts of playfulness.

Benefits of Tapping Into Your Playful Self

  • It gives your overworked brain a break. In particular your amygdala, the center that alerts you if there is potential danger or harm coming your way. When your amygdala is calm, so are you. The relaxed state of play can give your brain a needed break.
  • Play gives you respite from worry and upset. When you are in a playful state, your focus has shifted away from the worries and stresses of your life.
  • Play is a wonderful medium to help you connect with your loved ones. ♥♥  Play can create a space for loving / nurturing interactions . Actually for all relationships: couples, parents and children, siblings, families.
  • A relaxed play state can help you recharge and think more clearly, allowing for more creativity and effective problem solving.  I know many of my best ideas come when I am in a relaxed state.
  • Play can aid in healing mentally or physically. Being in a relaxed, non stressed state gives our body the rest it needs to heal.
  • It can bring you joy and happiness. And isn’t that something we all want and desire!

 Components of Healthy, Restorative Play

  • Competition is not emphasized. In its purest form it would be cooperative and mutually satisfying. There can be healthy competitive play. Considering your goal would be good here. In general for all those involved, cooperative play is going to feel the best for all concerned and do more for relationship building. Competitive play can help one prepare for the competitive world we live in and develop a healthy outlook on competition, especially if developmental age and talents are considered. But for the goal of lowering stress and relationship building, cooperative play is best. If you do something with a winner / loser, keep it light. If you are doing this as a family, model a light-hearted approach to your game.
  • It is fun and all those involved are enjoying it. Basically it should be mutually satisfying for all.
  • It is inclusive. No one is left out or made to feel as it they are not a real part of the play.
  • If it is parent child or family play, it is at the children’s developmental level. If something is too far above our level of understanding or capabilities , it is stressful. This goes for children and adults.
  • It feels uplifting and positive. There is focus on fun and enjoyment. We would of course avoid criticizing or telling another what to do. This is not to say that redirecting and establishing appropriate boundaries and limits for children are not a needed component.
  • There is a healthy flow of taking turns in leading the play. It has a cooperative, shared kind of feel to it. No one person dominating.
  • It does not involve electronic devices and these are not used during your play. This would be in the purest state the most conducive for interaction. There may be some times that watching a funny movie or doing an electronic game together may be what you want. But other forms of play will bring lots of other additional benefits. Or at least keeping it balanced can be helpful between the two avenues. If you are using electronic devices you can try to remember to add in playful touches and conversation. Plus more one on one non screen interaction afterwards.
  • Healthy, fun bantering and light-hearted teasing as a couple. With children (and with some adults) it is best to gauge for sensitivity and upset with your light-hearted teasing. This is meant to be fun, not hurtful at any level.
  • Open affection and laughter is a good hallmark of healthy play.  Holding hands, hugs, kisses, friendly and open interest.
  • You feel expansive and good during and afterwards. There is a light feeling that is a part of this kind of play.

play don't forget to play pic of swing set


Planned Play

Due to the very busy lives we all lead, it is necessary to plan for times of play or opportunities for play. For some it may not happen unless it is planned. This is not a bad thing, just a necessary thing. Even within the planned times, you will find opportunities for more spontaneous, out of the box playfulness. Having set play times can be very helpful for busy couples or families. It may be a planned family activity once a week. Or a date night in which playful things are included. Or a quarterly get away for a couple to relax and play. This does not have to be far away, just a scheduled time to “be together” in a playful fun state. But most of all it is is important to remember that play is not so much about a specific get away or activity (even thought that can be fun), but more about a state of mind and attitude and blocking of time to create an atmosphere or space where it is more likely to happen. 

Some other examples:

  • Doing versions of child activities as adults or with adolescents. And of course, doing child activities with your children. This creates a fun base that encourages playfulness. Some examples: Silly String Fight. Blowing Bubbles. Slap Jack.
  • Creative activities lead to allowing for playfulness. Things such as: Arts and Crafts. Cooking. Decorating. Lego Building. Telling Stories.
  • Encouraging humor. Telling jokes. Watching funny movies together. Parents and children reading funny books together.
  • Being in nature together. Spending time outdoors creates a sense of well-being that can allow for more playful feelings.

Random Acts of Playfulness

Is there anything better than having some random acts of playfulness happening? I think not. I love this the very best myself. For example: I was at a muddy outdoor event and my husband decided to give me a piggy back ride across an especially muddy area. It was so light-hearted and fun. That was actually the high light of that fun event we attended. It just felt so playful and fun.

Random acts of playfulness are really more about acting from our playful side of our self. It is about being open to this playfulness by both people. Letting our self have this light, freeing interaction even at times that are not ideal can help relieve stress. Maybe you have a hard day, but you come home and decide to let that slide away and be with your loved one in a way that promotes a feeling of connection and playfulness. It is a lovely choice we can choose to make.

  Ending Notes 

There are times when we do need to be serious and have extreme focus.  As with so many things in life BALANCE is a real key. Your playful self is wonderfully complementary. Here is to lots of playful, connecting times ahead!

Please let me know of Random Acts of Playfulness that have occurred for you. This may give other ideas as to how to express this fun, more spontaneous side of themselves. Maybe we should all take a pledge of seeing how many Random Acts of Playfulness we can spread around this next week. What a win – win situation, for us and our loved ones!