Winter Survival Brings Family Connection

Ah, January.  The most dreaded month of the year for most.  The post-holiday blues (and bills).  Winter has set in and spring seems a long way away.  The days still feel very short.  What can you do to bring back some magic to you and your family life?

I read an MSN article awhile ago that got me inspired and has stuck with me  It’s about simple things to do in daily life to stay bonded, and as we are all drifting along with the snow (or lack thereof!) in January, it seemed a good time to reread that article, and highlight some of my top picks to see me through this winter.

1)      Kisses, hugs, eye contact.  They may seem like no-brainers, but ask yourself how many kisses and hugs were exchanged yesterday.  I bet there is room for more.  It's amazing how great a hug or kiss can make you feel - don't take that for granted.  Eye contact really grabbed me, especially when most of us have our eyes on the screen of whatever device these days!  I bet those devices are getting more eye contact than your loved ones!  Eye contact is a very important part of the animal world – just look at animals who don’t have vocal cords and you will see.  So try out some communication without words, but using your bodies instead.

2)      Unplugging.  This relates to the above.  We are all so busy with whatever plugs us in, try having dedicated time to unplug yourself from technology.  Some friends and I came up with a grand new years plan with our kids to have it totally technology free.  Candles instead of electricity, cooking over a fire, music as played and sung by us, board games vs. computer games... well, it didn’t pan out that way the whole night, but we managed to find a nice balance in the middle.  It’s amazing what you will hear and see when you unplug.

3)      Gaming and puzzling.  I have found over the years playing board games to be a great way to pass time and connect with my kids and friends.  Recently puzzles were reintroduced to our life, and I am really glad they were!  Both allow opportunity for eye contact, joking and chatting, team work, and fun.  I am not against video gaming either, in fact “Just Dance” is one of my favourite activities with my kids and friends.  Exercise and laughter are a great way to boost endorphins and kick those winter blues! 

4)      Getting out.  Sometimes all the inside time can leave you feeling a bit like you are trapped in that hotel in the Shining.  That means it’s time to get out!  Whether it’s for a walk around your neighborhood to see what’s new, or a trip to a park or conservation area, exploring can make you feel as fresh as if you just had a shower for your soul.  A couple of weekends ago, and friend and I took our kids to Claireville Conservation area.  We explored a path we hadn’t been down before, and we were all touched by the beauty of the world around us:  Seeing the water rippling under the layer of ice on the river, seeing the hard work of the busy beavers, tracking the trail of a rabbit and wondering what it was running from, and seeing a heard of white tailed deer cross the path right in front of us – those are just a few of the highlights from a magical day.  Nor do you have to rely on walking only as a means to get out – skating, skiing, and snowshoeing are just a few alternate means of transport in the winter months, and don’t have to cost a lot to do.  And if there is enough snow - sledding is always a hoot for all ages!  Maybe your family isn’t the outdoors type?  Well, a trip to a gallery or museum is always a fun way to spend a day, and it’s worth checking out what programs are going on because it’s pretty amazing these days the offers for family and kids you will find.  And if all else fails, getting out to a friend’s house may also cure what ails – just a change of scene and adding fresh faces can invigorate.

5)      Working together.  This can cover all kinds of ‘work’ – whether it’s turning up the music and doing housework together, or working on a project together (such as something for the house or an artsy project), or working side by side as you finish up that report you need to get done for work tomorrow and your child(ren) work on their homework, doing things together always makes it more pleasant, and even fun.

6)      Read together.  I recently rediscovered the virtues of reading aloud together.  My boys are 13 and 10, and well beyond the stage of NEEDING someone to read to them.  Note the NEED.  By happenstance, I wanted to share with them something I was reading, so read a paragraph out of the book.  They didn’t want me to stop, and it has since developed into a routine.  There are great opportunities here – for drama and voices and much giggling, and also to share things that are meaningful to everyone.  It gives great insight into a person, to know what they love to read, or hear what has impacted them.  So whether you are picking the book/passage/poem/play, or your child is, it’s a great opportunity to share an important part of yourself with someone else.  And depending on the age of your child(ren), you can also start your own bookclub with them.  It is also insightful to read the same book, and share what you liked/didn’t like, favourite parts/characters/story lines, and so on.  And simply, nothing beats being curled up with boys and dogs on a cold winter night in bed, all of us lost in our own book world, but together and close and connected.

7)      Leave notes.  In today’s tech world, the art of writing a letter I fear is dying.  With all the slang thanks to shortening of words for easy texting, and replacing actual emotion with ‘emoticons’, I wonder what is going to happen to language in the future.  Why not help revive it with little handwritten notes or letters to each other?  Use the house mailbox or create indoors ones for each other.  C’mon, nothing beats a handwritten letter in mailbox with your name on it, does it?

8)      Share memories and pictures.  Kids love hearing stories.  Nothing says those stories have to be made up by someone else.  Tell them about your adventures as a child.  Tell them about when you first knew you were pregnant with them.  Tell them about your hopes for the future.  Tell them about what you thought your future would be like when you were a child.  Tell them about your favourite teacher.  Tell them about your best friend when you were 5.  Tell them about your great-grandma raising 8 kids on a farm.  About your great-great uncle playing at Carnagie Hall.  Kids will eat this stuff up!  And even better when you have pictures to go along with the stories.  It’s a treasured memory of mine – sleepovers with my grandma when she would pull out old pictures and tell stories of growing up.  My son is going to high school next year, so was really keen to see my old yearbooks, and hear stories from my own days gone by.  We all love feeling connected to a story, so share it with each other!  The kids can do this too – what is their favourite memory so far?  Their biggest adventure?  The scariest moment?  What do they remember best about that best friend that moved away?  Go through an old album with them – what are their favourite pictures?  Do they remember the great aunt who would pinch their cheeks?  And so on... lots of room for fun and learning about each other.

These are just a few of my personal favourites that make me glad I am not hibernating this winter.  Staying connected to family and friends and having fun while you are doing so really is easy, opportunities abound everyday!  So seize them, and it will be spring before you know it!  Happy 2013!

Blogged by:

Kristine is constantly trying to keep up to her 2 active boys - a tween and a teen. They share a love of the outdoors, travel and adventure; art, music and literature; friends, food and fun; and most of all, their two dogs.

An artist at heart, Kristine started her career path pursuing a Fine Arts degree. Sidetracked from that road, she ended up working in the field of Engineering and has spent her working years balancing two full time jobs - being a mom and a professional.

Although "spare time" may be sparse, Kristine enjoys time with her family and friends, as well as satisfying a severe case of wanderlust whenever possible. Writing has always been an
interest, both as a reader and writer.



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