The greyhound bus puttered along the highway, inching itself forward while the excitement within me kept building. The other children onboard were also filled with eagerness. I pressed my forehead to the window and watched the palm trees lining the road blur into one big smear of green.
My patience had almost worn out and I was about to ask my Dad, “are we there yet?” Then something abruptly caught my eye. My head snapped back in glee; the pink turret of a castle poked out over a tall fence. Could this be it? After all the weeks of anxious waiting, were we finally here? As the bus slowly rounded its last corner, I saw the sign: ‘Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth’, and I knew this was a moment I’d never forget.
Close your eyes and take a minute to recall your favorite family memory? Which one really stands out, brings a smile to your face, or stirs up feelings of nostalgia? While mine happens to be a memory of a long-awaited family vacation to Disneyland, there are many different activities that create lasting family memories.
Making family memories is an active endeavor, it requires some planning, and allotted time set aside for focused and engaged interaction. When busy schedules are jam-packed with activities and obligations, we need to take time to create meaningful relationships with our family members.
Making such memories enables children to build a sense of self within their family, and foster a feeling of belonging to a family unit. By celebrating special occasions it is possible to create a sense of family connectedness that lasts a lifetime.
The range of activities and events that turn out to be the most memorable differs from family to family. While some families look back on vacations taken together with fondness; others may happily remember quality time spent together during family game night or visits to the park. As long as effort is made to create an environment where there are limited outside distractions and interaction is engaging, any family activity can be filled with cherished moments.
How does a family go about initiating engaging activities that create lasting memories? First, it is integral to decide how you want to spend your time together. It’s not the same for every family; proactively decide what’s best for yours. Consider the following examples:
- Plan a family event such as a regularly scheduled movie night; participation in sporting activities; or having a meal at a restaurant.
- Establish a new tradition, or revive an old one during special family events. This could involve making a traditional family recipe together; singing songs; or telling family stories.
- Plan a day-trip to the zoo, library, weekend getaway or a week long family vacation. Going somewhere with your family can be a memorable experience for children of all ages.
- Setting some time aside each day to talk with your children about their daily life and school events helps to establish lasting family bonds.
Once the chosen activity or event has been selected, it is important to eliminate distractions. Turn off cell phones and laptops, and let this time take priority over other tasks. Since it is scheduled family time, consider it just like any other important meeting.
The opportunity to spend time with your young family is not available endlessly. Sooner rather than later, children grow up and families disperse so take advantage of those years when making family memories is still possible. In doing so, you will foster a shared family heritage with your children.
Although I’ve grown up, moved away from my home province and no longer as enchanted by Disneyland as I once was, I still cherish the family memories my parents took the time and effort to establish with me and for that, I am always grateful.
Cara is a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia with a degree in Psychology. She works in the Communications Department at the BC Council for Families, where she enthusiastically advocates for families and family serving professionals.