Five Lasting Benefits Of Family Mealtimes: Make Quality Time Count

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.
So tomorrow night in the kitchen, I hope the talking begins.”- Ronald Reagan

When you start a family, you begin a journey of creating memories. For meaningful mementos that you can reminisce on for years, you usually go out of the way to celebrate special occasions. The effort you give to make big events memorable sets a positive example because it is a subtle way of showing your kids how well you value your family.

However, parents should realize that the part and parcel that form their everyday life will have greater impact on their children. If done right, the simple act of eating a meal together can create lasting benefits for the whole family.

Deeper relationships.

The world will definitely be a lonely place without relationships. Everyone will agree that having a strong support network is one thing that helps all of us get by through life’s ups and downs. Since family members are usually the persons closest to you, building relationships should start at home. Gathering together during mealtimes allows family to communicate and connect with each other. In the long run, the interactions that take place at the family table will strengthen relationships.

Well-adjusted kids.

As children grow, they become susceptible to bad influences which can lead to behavioral problems. Fortunately, regular family mealtimes can help parents shield their kids from all these possible scenarios. A 2014 research study published by the National Council on Family Relations, a non-profit organization, showed a positive correlation between family dinners and well-adjusted kids.

Smarter children.

If you want your kids to do better in school, you have another good reason to insist on making mealtimes a family activity. It may seem unlikely, but you can use mealtimes as a chance for learning. Aside from demonstrating proper eating manners, you can briefly discuss topics while at the dining table. The exchange of ideas that happen during meal times will open the minds of children to various points of view. These conversations encourage kids to speak their minds, and in the process, sharpen communication skills.

Better health.

Home cooked dishes are generally healthier than fast food and takeout meals. Eating together at home is therefore one way to ensure good health of the whole family. It is also a way to monitor the food intake of everyone. This claim is even backed by research as a paper published by the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that families who dine together at least three times a week reduces the risk of obesity and eating disorders.

Happier household.

It will be hard to foster a loving environment if you do not make bonding times a daily priority. Finding time to be together can be tough because everyone can get so busy. The good news is that mealtimes are one of the easiest ways to catch up with each other. Furthermore, a study by Brigham Young University researchers found out that family mealtimes allow working mothers to de-stress after a tiring day in the office.

So if your goal is to leave wonderful memories and impart great values, give prime importance to ordinary moments as well. Who knows? The fondest memories of your children can even be during family meal times.

Dean and Marcie WhalenFive Lasting Benefits Of Family Mealtimes: Make Quality Time Count
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3 Ways to Ease the Transition Back-To-School After Summer Break

With summer coming to an end and the school year starting anew, it’s time to start transitioning your little one out of vacation mode. It’s no secret that there is a stark contrast between lazy summer lounging and days full of academic challenge. A few months of lax schedules and no homework can cause even the most astute students to protest school’s return.

Understandably, some children find it difficult to adjust during their first semester. However, as parents, we have the power to ease those back-to-school blues. Here are three ways you can help your children acclimate:

Emphasize the Positive

Your little one may be mourning the end of his summer break, but no child can deny the joy that new things bring. If your student seems glum about returning to school, offer a different perspective by focusing on the positive. The most popular motivator is undoubtedly new clothes and school supplies. As tempting as it is to print off the school supplies list and quickly handle it yourself, don’t. Back-to-school shopping gives your child an opportunity to reinvent their personal style, test the waters on the newest fashion trends and personalize the tools that they will need in class. In addition to new apparel and supplies, a fresh school year also brings new friends.

While school’s main objective is to educate children on a diverse array of academic topics, it also helps develop social skills. Socialization is integrated into nearly every aspect of the school day; consequently, new friends are a big deal. Remind your child that they are going to be surrounded by plenty of classmates who they can have fun with, both in and out of school. If shopping and friends aren’t exciting enough, consider allowing your child to test a new mode of transportation to and from school.

If they normally walk, maybe they can try taking the school bus or their bike instead. Enacting such a simple change can do wonders for your student’s attitude toward the upcoming year. Lastly, new teachers and classes can also be a silver lining. Do a bit of research to find out the basics about your child’s new teacher, schedule or subjects and speak excitedly about those topics.

Make Responsibilities More Convenient

Some students struggle during the beginning of the year because they dislike the responsibility that school brings. Whether packing a lunch, remembering to complete an assignment or mastering time management, responsibility is indeed a vital aspect of conquering school. Ease the burden by employing creative tactics and aids to help your child handle responsibility effectively.

  •     Lunch

o  Try lunch packing stations.

o  Create a binder full of school lunch ideas that your child can reference.

o  Print a copy of the school lunch menu and hang it on the fridge.

  •     Homework

o  Keep a wall calendar with all homework and important assignments listed (hang the school calendar next to it).

o  Install Command Hooks near the door for you child to hang their backpack (so they won’t forget it).

o  Use a wall file hanger where children can put forms to be signed or homework to be checked.

  •     Time Management

o  Estimate the amount of time needed for an assignment, then set a timer to stay on track.

o  Regularly check-in with your child to see if schedules need to be adjusted to accommodate a healthy balance of academics and home life.

Keep An Open Dialogue About Emotions

A little empathy goes a long way. As hard as we try, it’s impossible to prepare for every scenario that will cause tension in the new year. Eventually, your little one will encounter a bout of frustration, fear or anxiety.  It’s important to be proactive by fostering a habit of open communication from the very 1st day of school. This will help your child feel comfortable sharing their stressors with you.

Listen to their concerns and experiences without judgment and offer assistance when applicable. Validate their feelings and be supportive by helping them problem solve. Be realistic about the amount of the time it may take to settle into a new grade, with new people and surroundings. In short, be reassuring. Remind your child that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed and you will always be there to help.

From elementary, all the way through high school, letting go of summer can be tough. It’s completely normal to be a bit off-kilter when trying to get back into the routine of school. Make the transition easier by using these three tips and watch how your child’s attitude toward the first semester improve.

Dean and Marcie Whalen3 Ways to Ease the Transition Back-To-School After Summer Break
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Eight Habits of Happily Married Couples To Emulate

Marriage vows promise, “Till death do us part”. In no way is that a light commitment. A lifetime of happiness requires hard work. It is cultivated through consistent effort, effective communication, and a lot of patience and love. But outside of those large foundational cornerstones, marital longevity is built through small daily interactions. In other words, it’s the little things. Here are 8 small steps that make a huge impact on maintaining the bliss in your relationship.

1. Have a Heart of Gratitude

Keep in mind that your partner doesn’t have to do anything; every kind of action is a conscious choice. The way your spouse loves you is a direct result of his/her purposeful intent. Don’t fall into the trap of taking your loved one for granted. Be thankful. Exude gratitude in your words, your actions, and your thoughts.

2. Do at Least One Extraordinary Thing a Day

Extraordinary sounds big, but it doesn’t have to be. Commit to performing small, “outside of the norm” acts that will make your spouse smile. Leave a handwritten love letter in her car, run that errand he’s been too busy to tackle, call her at work just to compliment her – do something thoughtful.

3. Ask “What Can I Do to Make Your Day Better?”

When you live with someone, it’s easy to assume that you know what he/she needs. You cross off all of the daily to-dos, pay the bills, and take care of chores, what more could your spouse need? While you are probably handling the major day-to-day responsibilities, there’s always more that can be done. Asking this simple question shows that you are willing and open to do a little extra to make his/her day easier.

4. Be Polite

Saying please and thank you is a common nicety that we often extend to strangers, acquaintances and coworkers. We hold doors open, quickly apologize for mistakes and maintain friendly body language and tone during communication. If we do all this for the people outside of our houses, why do we suddenly deem them unnecessary inside our homes? Your spouse deserves to be addressed the utmost courtesy. Never let the behavior you display for strangers to outshine the behavior your display with your spouse.

5. Touch Often

Small touches throughout the day are a form of intimacy, bonding, and attachment. At home, in public, in the car – touch your spouse. The goal is to stay connected. Hold hands, hug, sit closely, cuddle, and kiss. Touch is a perfect way to keep the romance alive.

6. Be Spontaneous

Marriage can fall victim to the comfort of routine. Keep things fresh by being spontaneous every now and again. Try a spur of the moment vacation, a date in a different city, or unexpected surprise. Your partner will love that you put thought into doing something new.

7. Find a Common Interest

For long-term couples, time apart is a vital element of a healthy relationship, but you don’t want to create too much separation. Investing time in a common interest is a fun way to stay united. Make a list of all the things you mutually enjoy, then try to find a class, club, or group that is centered around that hobby.

8. Create Traditions

Strengthen bonds by creating family traditions that celebrate the uniqueness of your union. Pick an annual custom that you’ll be able to maintain throughout the years. As your family grows, you’ll be able to share them with your children, who will go on to teach them to their own future generations. If you don’t know where to start, consider holiday traditions, sport rituals, or yearly vacations.

Countless threads of commitment hold happy marriages together. Committing to seek marriage advice, and put it into action, is one way to do your part in strengthening your union. When you make small deliberate choices to put your spouse and your marriage first, you are investing in the success of your future. Start by personalizing these 8 tips to fit the needs of your relationship.

Dean and Marcie WhalenEight Habits of Happily Married Couples To Emulate
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3 Things That Make a Happy Home

Your household should be a safe space for your entire family to come home to after a long day, after a fun trip or just after running some errands. One of the most effective ways to turn your home into a welcoming, warm space for everyone is to make an honest effort to fill it with happiness and love. A happier home makes a happier family. However, we all know sometimes that’s easier said than done, so we came up with three things that have helped us make our home a happier place. Here are three ways to make a happy home.

Make coming home an event

We fall into the routine of life all too easily, and by doing so, ordinary events just become a part of our schedule. However, if you make an effort to make simple things that happen every day a special event, your family will start recognizing the happiness that lies in the small moments. For instance, start welcoming your family members home with a joyous greeting and a hug. Let everyone know how glad you are to have them home even if your spouse was just running errands for the afternoon. By doing so, your family members will feel more appreciated, and your house will always be an optimistic place to come home too. Remember to embrace the small moments because that’s where life lives.

Turn meals into a family affair

There are all kinds of studies that prove families who sit down to eat dinner together as often as possible form better relationships, adopt healthier lifestyles, and experience more happiness. Sharing meals together gives you a chance every evening to connect and make memories with your family. Sit-down dinners with the whole family allow the perfect opportunity to build your relationships and strengthen your family bond. These conversations over the dinner table foster a space to share excitement, challenges, and laughs. From the planning stages to the cleanup, make sure your meals are a family affair as often as possible to increase the happiness in your home.

Use positive words

Never underestimate the power of words. Using positive words of encouragement and love on a daily basis will directly impact the positive energy in your home. Leave positive notes for your family members around the house and focus on positivity when you speak to each other. Never let a family member leave your home without a positive reminder so they go about their day with an optimistic mindset. If you focus on the positive and avoid dwelling on the negative, your home will be a happier place.

A happy home is the key to a happy family. Try these three tips to make your home the happiest it can be.

Dean and Marcie Whalen3 Things That Make a Happy Home
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Our Favorite Tips to Keep the Family Healthy

Adopting a healthy lifestyle for your family is important for every member to reach his or her full potential. In our household, we focus on health in all areas of life––mentally, emotionally, and physically––because we know that well-rounded health leads to a well-rounded life. Our home encourages this all-inclusive healthy lifestyle because our family is the happiest when we make our health a priority. However, we know that maintaining a healthy lifestyle in every area of life can be difficult when life gets busy. That’s why we came up with three of our favorite tips to keep the family healthy even when life gets in the way.

Stay active

An active lifestyle leads to health in multiple areas of life. Not only does it help maintain a healthy weight, but it also reduces the risk of conditions like a stroke and heart disease. Perhaps most notably, staying active increases children’s self-confidence, enhances cognitive function, and provides them with a healthy way to improve their mental health. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, a pickup game of basketball in the driveway, or soccer practice after school, make sure your family members participate in physical activity every day.

Make sleep a priority

When life becomes overwhelmingly busy, sleep is often compromised. However, make sure sleep is a priority in your household because a well-rested person performs exponentially better throughout the day. Overtiredness leads to lack of energy, crankiness, and laziness. One of the best ways to ensure that your family members get enough hours of sleep each night is to establish a nighttime routine for your whole family and stick to it as often as possible because consistency maintains our internal body clocks. Also, make sure you don’t over-commit yourself or your family because two big nights in a row may not be worth the meltdown on day three.   

Eat meals together

Sharing meals with your family provides an opportunity for everyone to catch up with each other on a daily basis. But, your family dinners are also so much more beneficial than that. This time together provides your family with an opportunity to learn how to choose and pair healthy foods together, understand what foods make you all feel and perform your best, and establish healthy eating habits to use as a guide throughout life. Not to mention, family time around the table can also foster healthier relationships and improve communication within your family.

It’s easy to let the business of life take advantage of your family’s time and health, but follow these three tips to keep your family healthy no matter what.

Dean and Marcie WhalenOur Favorite Tips to Keep the Family Healthy
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3 Ways to Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit

There is a reason they refer to the holidays as the most wonderful time of the year. The lights, the decorations, and the holiday cheer really do bring the spirit of Christmas into each day. This year make sure your family remembers the reason for the season by making an effort to spread the holiday spirit every chance you can––whether you’re spending time with your family, running through your daily routine, or out serving your community. Here are 3 ways to get your family in the holiday spirit in no time at all.

Create a new tradition

Old traditions give your family a sense of identity and have the power to teach values across generations. This Christmas continue your old family traditions just like you always have, but establish a brand new one. Start a Christmas activity calendar, so each day there is a different activity to do. Bake holiday cookies together, decorate the tree, or hang lights outside. The opportunities are endless. Or maybe just decide from here on out, your family goes ice skating together one night every holiday season.

Embrace small acts of kindness

As you go through your day-to-day schedule, look for ways you can spread the holiday spirit to the people you encounter, and try to do on small act of kindness each day. Bring up your neighbor’s trash cans, pay for coffee for the person in line behind you, or just give up a closer parking spot to the person behind you in a packed parking lot. Whatever you do, be an example for your family, and encourage everyone else to do one small act of kindness each day for someone different in their life.

Give back to your community

Embrace the true spirit of the season by taking the time as a family to spread holiday cheer within the community. Donate blankets to a local homeless shelter. Drop holiday treats off at an assisted living community. Or volunteer your time as a family to decorate a hospital this holiday season. Do whatever it is your heart calls you to do to spread holiday cheer throughout your community. In doing so, together you family will remind those around you what the holidays are really all about.

Make this holiday season extra special with these 3 ways to get your family into the holiday spirit in no time at all.

 

Dean and Marcie Whalen3 Ways to Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit
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3 Ways to Find Balance with 3 Kids

Having children and raising a family is one of the greatest blessings and joys you can experience in life. But finding balance amongst your hectic schedule is one of the most challenging things you’ll experience in life as well––especially when the number of kids outnumbers the number of parents. Having a third child will undoubtedly test your patience and your multi-tasking ability. Not to mention, it will be next to impossible to find free time for yourself just to relax because parenthood is one of the most time-consuming jobs you’ll ever have in life. Here are 3 ways to find balance with 3 kids. 

Remember you are a team

Sometimes raising a family feels like a power struggle where one person has to win, and the other has to lose. Even when kids are as young as two, you may experience stubbornness or conflicts. However, it’s important to remember that your family is your team. So instead of always arguing back with your children, try to understand why they may be acting this way. Maybe they feel like they aren’t getting as much attention or they’re frustrated with something they don’t understand. Rather than punishing your children for their “bad” behavior, take another look at the situation and find a way to solve the conflict together. You are a team after all.

Never underestimate the power of a routine

When you have three children, time management will quickly become your best friend. With three different kids running in opposite directions at all times, it’s necessary to establish a routine to make sure you can keep track of who goes where and when. At first, it may seem unnecessary to plan out each day’s details, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t ever know how you survived without one.

Have fun

The thought of adding another kid to your already-crazy family can seem scary at times. But remember, the extra bundle of joy and laughs will be so worth it. So be patient with yourself, with your spouse, and with your kids. Even when things don’t go as planned, at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you get to spend your life with the people you love the most. And you get to have fun while you do it. You get to raise a family with your best friend––it really doesn’t get better than that!

Having a third child can be challenging at times, but follow these tips to find balance with 3 kids.

Dean and Marcie Whalen3 Ways to Find Balance with 3 Kids
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