Picture this: Your family crowds around the urban fireplace (the TV) to watch Netflix and devour delivery pizza.
Weeks later: You cancel Netflix. You cook boxed spaghetti for dinner. You've experienced the change.
The change can be job-loss, divorce, or deployment. The change is anything that decreases your living status. And the change typically increases blood-pressure (even though you're not eating steak as often.)
And your kids feel it too. Just like adults, kids cozy-up to the idea of eating out (no dishes!), a night at the movies (extra butter, please) and buying the latest toy or gadget (Does this need AA batteries?)
But my recent divorce has given me insight into a whole new world of abundant thinking. I've learned that with just a few changes — our lives have gone from full and unfulfilling to full and abundant. Here's how I did it:
1. Play every day
In just 10 minutes of phone off, uninterrupted time I see my daughter become more confident, happier, more connected to our family and less likely to misbehave. And when the timer goes off I conclude by saying, “Thank you so much for our time together!”
2. Go to the library every week
If you're like me and you feel like you're saying no to the gum, the Barbie, the balloon, the coloring book, the Hello Kitty shirt — most everything — make a stop at your local library. Here's where you can let yes flow.
Can I get Disney Greatest Hits CD? — Why sure!
Can I get a Scooby Doo DVD? — Rooby-rooby roo!
Can I get a book about princesses? — Of course, your highness.
I've found that the cherry on top is putting on hold favorite items and new releases. At any given time we have 20-30 items checked out which may seem excessive to some, but CDs get us singing together in the car, DVDs are just the ticket for family movie night, books give variety to story time, as well as my personal bubble-bath (shhh — don't tell the librarians.)
3. Make dinnertime sacred
It doesn't matter if your menu for tonight is pasta with grated cheese, or even a bowl of Cheerios — a treat for me after a long day — the point is get together with your family every night to eat. Set a consistent time or place. Don't adopt the TV as your long lost child. Only those who can look you in the eye are invited. The primary recipe for family dinner is: members of the family, food and fun.
Go around the table sharing the best and worst moments of your day.
Read open-ended questions — often called dinnertime questions.
Make it a place your family wants to be. The more connected you feel to your family — the more you will feel that you already have enough.
Here are a few more ideas for making family dinner a priority.
4. Spend time together outside
Maybe it's the Vitamin D. Maybe it's the rustle of leaves overhead. But being outdoors feels abundant. My daughter and I are always a happier duo when we spend time — even just 5-10 minutes a day outside.
You can do formal things like BBQs, picnics, hikes and playground excursions.
Or you can do the fabulously informal: sit on the porch, point out the brightest stars, ask what your child's favorite flower is.
My favorite outside activity is taking a walk around the block. It's quick — but not too quick. We pick up rocks, leaves, and pine-needles that have fallen on the sidewalk and go home and place them in an outside treasure basket. During our walk I like to comment about the abundance of things outside: clouds, mountains and even bugs. We also like to run around and play tag. Being silly is good for the whole family, especially when money is tight.
Here are more ideas for simple outside family activities.
5. Consider other people
Thinking about someone else is a surefire way to remember that you are not an island. A few years ago I showed my daughter a video segment about humanitarian efforts around the world to provide toys and clothes for children. She still talks about the program and periodically gives me clothes to send to the kids. Considering others opens children's eyes to the fact that there are other people who experience hard things — perhaps even harder than their own.
6. Draw a picture (for others and yourself)
I have my daughter draw pictures of things she would like to have. Things I wish I could get her. We talk about them. We talk about what we would do if she had them. Then we hang up the picture on the fridge and go and play with the toys she already has (see number 1.)
None of these ideas are a magic tonic. It's hard when money is tight. It won't change the fact that some days your kids will just feel sad or mad that other kids have something they want. But it will bring the security of consistency. It will rub in the balm of love — through the time you spend together. And it may even make you wonder why you even felt like you needed Netflix in the first place.