By TMoM team member Michelle Barson

About four years ago, when my twin boys were two, I read an article about happiness anchors and it changed the way I thought about vacations, activities and how I plan for my family in general. It made me a more conscious mother and gave me the confidence to take control of our days and frankly – more motivation to do so.

By definition a happiness anchor is a source of feel-good memories on which people can draw in the months, years and decades later. Happiness anchors serve those going through harder times (both children and adults) as something they can think back to, to help them get through that next difficult hour, day, or years ahead.

Sometimes as a parent we can dread the planning and work that goes into what creates these happiness anchors and we avoid them.  I have found that now that I know what one is that I constantly think about how to create special memories and feel like all the work is worth it. Not every activity, trip or party will be special to my boys, but I figure the more opportunities I give them to create a happiness anchor the better. I truly feel it will make them them better prepared for when they face difficult times as a child and later as an adult.

In normal times, a great happiness anchor is a vacation. It’s a sure way to make great memories because it’s totally out of the normal routine. Vacations typically involve a majority of the family unit and sometimes even extended family or friends that may not be as involved with the kids’ lives on a day-to-day basis this making it more special and memorable.

So, what about when there is a pandemic or if vacations aren’t affordable right now? Here are a few ideas.

~ Sleepovers are something special and out of the normal routine. They don’t seem as commonplace as they did when I was growing up. I like to enhance them by ordering take out, making popcorn, renting a movie and planning a special breakfast for the next morning. We usually plan one structured activity during the evening just to break things up.

~ Plan a fun activity with just your family or invite a few friends to join. Some ideas include: Scavenger Hunt (I love Etsy for finding these); Baking a fun desert together; Learning a new board game; Going on a little hike; Creating contests and having “prizes”.

~ Take a small outing. This could be as simple as getting ice cream, a doughnut or going to a playground. During a pandemic these aren’t as commonplace as they once were and may be really meaningful to your child.

~ Celebrate ALL holidays. Create a small party for them (and maybe a few of their friends based on your comfort level) celebrating the day or with themed activities at home. I like to give a few gifts even – just because who doesn’t like a gift? I’m talking small, affordable gifts or something you needed to purchase them anyway. Just wrap them up and call them a gift! Our favorite new “holiday” is “May the Fourth.”  We also celebrate Groundhogs Day, Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, National Cheese Day, and the list goes one! Here is one website that lists a few “additional” wacky holidays.

Since the pandemic and the quarantine, I’ve had to work harder at making our activities special, but I will say they’ve been less expensive. How about you? Have you created happiness anchors for your family recently? Share your ideas as a comment below!

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