Having a family is a hugely rewarding experience, but it is also definitely no shortage of work. Raising a happy and healthy family takes time, dedication, sacrifice, and patience. Of course, every parent wants to ensure their children are happy and living a stress-free life, but raising a joyful and connected family means more than just focusing on your kids.
Too often, parents (especially new parents) can lose themselves in their children and not take enough time to connect with their partners, take care of their pets, remain in contact with their friends, or focus on their own needs. While parents obviously should be taking time to focus on their kids, maintaining relationships, and enriching their own lives will ultimately help the entire family stay connected and happy together. Families like the Brady Bunch may make it look easy because it is television after all, but it takes a lot of effort to maintain in reality.
Here are some tips on how to keep yourself, your partner, your kids, and your furry family members healthy and happy.
Often, couples can lose that spark once the kids come along. The busy lifestyle that follows children can make it tough to carve out romantic time, between working, raising kids, and dealing with all the responsibilities of home ownership, other family members, and adulthood in general. It is important to take time for each other, though, and reconnect at least once a day to check in on each other and see how they are doing.
Having a scheduled date night might sound boring, because what kind of romance is scheduled? In reality, it might be the only way to get each other’s full attention, especially if you are both working and busy. Plan at least one night each week where you call a babysitter for the kids and do something you and your partner will both enjoy. This could be going for dinner and a movie (perhaps something a bit more adult even?) or going for drinks at a spot in the city and catching a show afterward. It could mean taking a class together that you have always wanted to try because trying new things together is a great way to have fun and possibly even learn something new about each other. It could mean going to a spa and totally unwinding and relaxing with a couples massage, followed by a dip in the hot tub. It could even mean staying in (because family life is exhausting!) and having a quiet, romantic night at home catching up on your favorite Netflix series, ordering delivery, and cracking open a bottle of wine.
Every parent wants their child to grow up happy and healthy, with good habits and the ability to make the right decisions for themselves. Spending quality time together every day, encouraging them to communicate their feelings, and setting boundaries are all important when raising children.
Ask them about their day at school and exchange stories over family dinners to help understand their lives, and them yours. Plan family activities and playtime to encourage fun, emphasize health and fitness, and make memories. Establish routines, like bedtime routines, where you can connect and reflect together.
There are also the less fun tasks that unfortunately need to be done, but will pay off in the long run. Establishing rules and guidelines will help your children keep their behavior in check and also help them feel safe and secure. Children need limits in order to thrive, so make sure if you set a rule, you stick to it. Teaching responsibility and self-discipline is important at a young age, so when they grow up, they have the knowledge to make good choices.
You can’t overlook your furry friends as part of the family! Anyone with a pet knows that they truly are like another family member, and you want to make sure you give them the best quality of life you can. Ensuring you give your dog or cat plenty of attention, love, and attention will keep them happy, but it’s not all you need to do.
Keeping an eye on your pet’s health will help them live full lives. Regular vet visits (annually, or semi-annually for senior animals) are good ways to make sure their health is in good shape and can help catch early signs of disease or illness. Paying attention to their diet and weight will also keep them healthy. Quality pet food, as well as liquid vitamins for dogs and cats, is necessary to avoid preventable health issues. Giving them plenty of exercise by taking dogs for walks once or twice a day and playing with cats for at least 20 minutes a day will help keep them active.
Don’t forget that you are just as important as every other member of your family. Parenting is challenging, cultivating a successful relationship can be difficult at times, and the overall stresses of life can take its toll as well. You have already gotten this far, and that is a major achievement, so cut yourself some slack in times of hardship because you’re doing great!
Taking time for yourself is vital to keeping yourself and your family happy. If you’re happy, your family will feed off of that vibe. Think about what you used to do in your downtime before you had kids and consider if those activities still bring you joy. Maybe you went on long bike rides while blasting your favorite tunes through a mini speaker, possibly even singing along and not caring who heard you. Maybe you curled up with a good book and read for hours on end, ignoring the hustle and bustle of life around you while you immerse yourself in another world. Maybe you recharged by going out with friends, having a few drinks or grabbing delicious food, and gossiped all night or watched the game together.
Whatever the case, take time at least once a week to do these activities again and have some good old fashioned “you” time. Practicing self-care and unwinding from the stresses of life is important, not just for your own sanity and mental health, but to show your children that taking care of their own needs is just as important as taking care of the needs of others. It can help them build good habits and self-esteem if they see you doing it too.