As daily family rhythms are so powerful, it is logical to extend them into weekly, monthly and yearly cycles. Human beings live in a cyclical universe: the seven-day weekly cycle, the twenty-eight-day moon or monthly cycle, and the annual solar cycle. We innately implement cycles in our lives.
Consciously creating fun family rhythms directly affects family happiness. Through personal experience I’ve witnessed how family rhythms can transform children’s outlook and their happiness, particularly during the middle childhood years (from seven to 12 years old) and long-term.
Weekly Family Rhythms
Despite good intentions, in our fast-paced world it is easy for the best- made family plans to slip by the wayside. To help get into a routine, place enjoyable and bonding family activities into a weekly rhythm. I like the saying: ‘Families that play together stay together.’
Weekly activities bring a sense of connection to family life. A weekly rhythm is an invitation to spend time together. When this continues through the years, it provides the glue that bonds family members to each other.
Food - Eating is rhythmic by nature, and sharing a family meal is a daily opportunity to connect. Ordinary mealtimes can be made ‘extraordinary’ by using a fun weekly family recipe. If your family has a favourite food, pick one day of the week when you’ll always have that meal. It could be home-made pizza, a pancake breakfast, taco night, Sunday afternoon tea or whatever works for your family.
A fun weekly food rhythm creates a comforting feeling of routine and connection and is an investment in your family’s future. Once children leave home, if they live close by they might even return for Sunday morning pancakes, or meet up for brunch. Rhythms run deep!
Games Night - During the middle years, children are developing strategic thinking, memory capabilities, and are learning how to be good sports (with a little practice!). You could choose a weekly rhythm for family board and card games to encourage these skills. In our house we chose that Friday night would be family games night, and it was a fun way to connect and start the weekend together.
Shared Hobbies - The middle years of childhood are a time to create, build, do craft and play music together. At this age, children have longer concentration spans and increased finger dexterity. Observe children to see their interests, and invite them to join in with adult projects, when possible. A joint project between parent and child can easily be placed within a weekly rhythm. This project might involve craft, sewing, knitting, mosaic, cooking, gardening or woodworking, learning a piece of music together, practising a sport, or joining in with another parent interest, such as models, cars or stamp collecting.
Exercise - During middle childhood, children enjoy moving and testing their bodies. Choose an activity such as bike riding or dog walking and place it into a weekly time slot to do together. Which sports are enjoyed by both parent and child? Perhaps a family game of basketball, table tennis, tennis or even roller skating can be placed in a weekly rhythm. This means that adults keep active too!
“During bonding time, turn all phones and devices off and focus solely on listening and one-on-one connection”
Family Movie Night - Place TV time into a weekly rhythm to avoid constant requests and whining. Choose a slot and simply state: ‘TV time is Saturday.’ Where possible, watch movies together and chat about the film and characters. Find older versions of films if you can; the scenes are played at a slower speed, the noise level is lower and the special effects are less frightening. Children also like to watch videos of themselves as babies and young children, as well as documentaries or cooking shows.
Setting Limits - Create weekly rhythms for activities and food you have decided to limit. For example, you could decide that the day when children can have once-in-a-while food (chocolate perhaps) is Friday. Clear rhythms help reduce battles of wills!
Chores - Friday is called ‘Tidy Friday’ in my classroom. During the afternoon, each student empties, reorganises and cleans their desk, and tidies an allocated area. After Tidy Friday it is time for ‘Free Choice Friday’, and children can pick what they would like to do, from a selection of board games, building and craft materials, books to read and drawing fun. At home, a regular chore day allows all family members to be part of a team. Children may feel useful when they are given a role, and parents feel supported.
Bonding Time - Long work hours can encroach on quality family time. Create a weekly family date – like a fun appointment. I’ve met parents who give a two-hour slot each week to father-and-son time, or girls’ night, to suit individual family dynamics. The predictability of this time fosters stability and happiness. A weekly one-on-one date is particularly good for parents who work long hours or are often away from home. This regular getting together allows time to have fun and connect, even when life is busy.
During bonding time, turn all phones and devices off and focus solely on listening and one-on-one connection. Create a vision board together of enjoyable activities: bike riding, fishing, playing card games, cooking a new meal, learning to play chess or completing a project.
Yearly Rhythms - Some of the most memorable family times happen in yearly rhythms, including birthdays and festivals like Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Diwali and Ramadan, as well as holidays or seasonal outings. Family traditions for particular times of year form childhood memories and often get passed along from one generation to the next.
In my opinion, yearly festivals of all religions have their roots in LOVE. They provide a time to join as families, to share special meals, connect and bring magic to family life. Children become more involved in the festival preparation during middle childhood as they begin to take on greater responsibility.
Let’s Be Realistic - Family rhythms are not immune to arguments, tears, frustrations, and the occasional angry word by either parent or child. But the happy times often outweigh these moments. Let’s choose fun daily, weekly and yearly activities that are manageable and enjoyable for all, and not stressful.
Rhythms do not mean rigidity. They change over time as children grow older and new interests or life circumstances arise. Sometimes plans have to change - that’s life.
Spontaneity is important in family life too! Only a couple of rhythms are required, then you can go with the flow on other days.
The Glue that Binds - Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rhythms provide the glue that binds family members together. Families that maintain some daily and weekly rhythms are more likely to stay connected. Rhythmical activities are anchored within children during the middle years, and so as children move into the teenage years, they may still participate in a few key family activities while seeking greater independence. Introducing and maintaining just one simple, fun and predictable family weekly rhythm makes all the difference for sustained connection in the long term.
TRY IT AT HOME
• Which activities create family happiness for everyone – nature, exercise, games, crafts, music? Make sure they are included in your weekly rhythm.
• Why not try making pizza dough or pancakes this weekend?
• Games night means family fun.
• Weekly chores are more fun with music.
• Place limited activities into a weekly time slot.
• Create a vision board of activities to put into an outing jar for later in the year.
• Include fun yearly rhythms for birthdays and other festivals.
• Ask children ‘What are the activities you would like us to do together?’
READ Growing Children, Thriving Children: Raising Seven to 12 Year Olds with Confidence and Awareness by Lou Harvey-Zahra (Floris Books £14.99)
REVIEW suitable content at commonsensemedia.org