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Five Ways to Better Your Family in 2009

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When faced with the challenges of a dismal economy, many parents are looking for ways to share meaningful and memorable times with their children without spending money. According to psychotherapists Marilyn Kagan, LCSW, and Neil Einbund, Ph.D., “We are not defined by our money; nurturing stronger connections with your kids is one way to have a more rewarding life.”

Kagan and Einbund are the authors of Defenders of the Heart: Managing the Habits and Attitudes That Block You from a Richer, More Satisfying Life (Hay House). Here are five tips for starting some new activities that can enhance the well-being of your entire family:   


Give back; teach altruism. Are your kids not only growing out of their clothes but also their toys and books? How about taking three Saturdays and spending a half hour each time with your kids pulling out clothes, toys and books that are no longer used. Donate clothes, books and toys to a homeless shelter. Make sure you explain why people become homeless and how it’s important to show compassion towards others who have less.

Stop the procrastination; take action for improvements
. Have you and other parents at your child’s school expressed negativity about the shape of the school? Are you wishing the colors were brighter? The grounds greener? How about setting up one day a month for a “working” lunch. Each family brings food to share and also a rake, a paintbrush, some flowers to plant, some rags and buckets for cleaning. Whatever the joint activity, you are all doing something as a team. Instead of just talking about something in the future, collectively you are stopping the procrastination cycle of “we’ll get around to it tomorrow” or “someone should do something about this.”

Stop rationalizing; resolutions often occur when kids are heard and valued.
Are your kids going at each others throats? Treating each other disrespectfully? Are you so discouraged about the disconnection between all of you that you’ve started to rationalize to yourself “kids will be kids,” or “all families must be like this.” One solution is setting up an ongoing weekly family meeting for the same time, same day of the week, and same place with everyone expected to be there (no excuses accepted). Each person gets the floor for two to four minutes without being interrupted, or judged. Don’t lecture the kids—just listen and learn. Set ten minutes to seek solutions without any complaints.


Build memories; make fun time a weekly regular. Staying physically fit together is a time for family bonding. Make a list of sports, games, or anything that gets you moving. Let one family member choose the activity weekly. Initially, there might be resistance and impatience (especially from the older kids). But every family member makes a commitment to be there, participate, and do his of her personal best.   

Involve them and they will realize that broccoli isn’t so bad
. Choose healthier eating for yourself and your kids.  Know that it can’t be a 360 degree change. Start small by setting up two delicious and healthy meals per week. If cooking healthy isn’t your strength, go with your kids to the library to check out some simple healthy cookbooks, or search online for recipes. Have your kids help in ways they can, such as: washing, dicing, cutting, mixing, and preparing the ingredients. Give your kids tasks that they developmentally can handle will set the family up for success. And then have fun cooking and eating together.

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