Whew, 2020 has been quite a year – especially for parents. Worrying about your family’s wellbeing. Stress about loss of work, or working from home with calls of Mom, I can’t connect to my math class! in the background. Longing to see family and friends in a normal way again.

Sound familiar?

As we look toward a new year and the possibility of life feeling off-kilter for a little bit longer, our hope is to offer simple ways to build calm, connection-boosting rituals into your family life. Here they are, and why we love them.

Plan Family Meals

Time and again, research finds that eating together as a family, even just a few times a week, benefits children and families in significant ways. For children, it boosts language development, social skills, and healthy eating habits, while also decreasing risk of depression, anxiety and substance abuse. For families, eating together encourages connection through sharing a ritual and conversation.

As an added bonus, family meals are an ideal time for children to help with tasks like cooking and cleaning up. These “chores” carry their own unique benefits, including supporting executive function skills, independence and collaboration.

We did use the word “simple” in the title of this article, so here are some things to keep in mind!

  • Family meals can be any meal, or even a snack.
  • It counts even if it’s just 2 people.
  • It doesn’t need to be elaborate; the important thing is sitting down together to share food and conversation.
  • To make them count, keep family meals technology free.

Build in Reading Time

For very young children, reading time is often a before-bed ritual. But older children can still benefit from snuggling next to a parent and either listening to them read, or reading aloud themselves. You can even take turns reading aloud, switching every page or chapter.

Aside from encouraging physical closeness with a parent, listening to a book being read aloud can create a love for reading, strengthen listening skills, build vocabulary, and model prosody (a fancy word for things like intonation, tone and rhythm).

And, of course, reading aloud supports reading skills like fluency and comprehension for children at any age.

To keep this simple, try creating a weekly reading ritual at a time when the family is generally more relaxed, such as a Sunday afternoon.

Plan Family Game Nights

When it comes to board games, we are a broken record: Their benefits for children run far and wide! Board games build countless skills, including executive function, critical thinking, problem solving, taking turns, teamwork, self-regulation, vocabulary, concepts, coping with failure, and on and on. When families play games together, it encourages closeness through spending time together and sharing a fun activity.

To keep it simple, try planning it once or twice a month and increase frequency if you can. And, of course, we advocate for three-dimensional games and keeping game night technology free.

All of us at ICT send you our best wishes for a new year filled with happy days and new family rituals!