February: The Month to Grow Family Love and Laughter (Part II)

Marcus, doing his meditation pose, after we did this puzzle together; Marcus pretending to doze off in a wacky shot in Italy; Meagan so happy after we cooked this macaroni and mushroom dish together

In my previous article I shared my thoughts on why I believe it is so important today to build family love and laughter. I shared how mental health problems have become a “closer-to-home” issue for many families because the extremely prolonged lockdown of children in the Philippines out of physical school and face-to-face social interactions has had different effects on each child.  I also shared that if we hope to nurture emotionally-strong children, we as parents, should also work on our own emotional strength.  I shared the concept of building our own "Joy Bank" so when hard times arise, we have precious memories to draw strength from.

My 2 kids are currently 16 and 13 years of age. I have seen how they go through various adversities in their lives...whether it be issues with academic work, friends, sports or as devastating as death of loved ones, I see how they face these more difficult emotions or anxieties by directing themselves to the many blessings life has given them.  My daughter now better verbalizes this and tells me how lucky and safe she feels at home to be able to share her fears and frustrations, and after crying things out, be able to go back to her happy family memories.

Many of these happy family memories involve lots of Play and adventures during weekends.  We would usually spend Saturday nights at home with games, activities and Art. Sunday would usually be either a trip to the bookstore or a family road trip.  There are also loving memories built in our family travels.  Every end of the month, I would do sort of my "Play Tools" run in the toy store, where I would stock up on games, Art materials and other entertaining play tools that may be related to what my child is learning in school.  I was very consistent with our Saturday Play Nights from toddler to 10 years old. I personally believe and saw how this family habit of playing and laughing together has had long-term results in emotional outlook, not just to my children, but also to us as parents.

My primary goal then was to foster good familial connections. We all have different personalities, but common activities allow us to have fun together.  During this time, I try to suspend my parental comments and let them be.  I remember when Marcus was 4, he would get so mad if he lost in a game.  I would allow his outburst then casually tell him that losing is part of life, but what’s good is when you join again, you welcome the chance of winning.  We’d tell him to join in when he was ready.  Sometimes, he would storm out to go back to his room.  Other times, he would come back to join in.

I also discovered that in picking common activities, kids love their voices to be heard. Preferences are not the same so, at times, arguments arise, but that’s okay. Negotiating and reaching a compromise are always challenging but fun to watch, especially among siblings.  We all get to choose 2 games or activities each.  

Below are some of the activities we do in the weekends:

  1. GAME NIGHTS - Our main staple was Bingo and Logic games when my children were toddler and preschool.  When they got older it would be speed games.  Now they love challenging us with Chess during their free time.
  2. MOVIE NIGHTS - It is fun to know what they are interested in right now and hear them explain the characters or plot.  My kids always get excited when a new Marvel movie comes out and we still go with them up to today.
  3. TRIP TO THE BOOKSTORE.  My daughter has always loved reading.  My son liked books about what he was collecting at that time.  We wanted to encourage him to read more so we found Marcus loved the hobby more when my husband is there when he picks his books.  
  4. SPORTS TIME. My husband would have sports time with my kids.  From biking to basketball, I believe it contributed to how my 2 children excel in their respective sports today.
  5. COOKING FEST. We love to make simple pasta and burgers whenever we can. Santi’s has these fresh local burger patties that Marcus loves with a slice of mozzarella on top.  We just mix fresh ground beef, onions; garlic with store-bought San Remo or Barilla sauce and that makes a fast baked macaroni or lasagna.  Making pizza is a little more preparation but quite fun.
  6. WEEKEND ROAD TRIP.  One of our usual destinations is Pangasinan, where we visit my nanny’s burial grounds as well as her family there.  One time, my kids were lucky enough to visit my nanny's niece, Teacher Ching's classroom at the local public school. When Pokemon Go was popular, we would do road trips both near and far.


Next week, let me share more specific play tools and activities for infant and toddlers, preschoolers and grade-schoolers that offer a "One-Solution" to learn, build self-esteem and bond together as a family.

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