Where to Start
Every good organization starts with a strong mission statement. Why not strengthen your family by developing a family mission statement?
A family mission statement - We now have an excellent opportunity to develop quality connections with our family. With the challenges of working from home, managing home-schooling or keeping preschoolers stimulated, the new normal is to work through self-isolation as a family. COVID-19 has disrupted of our past routines we need to think differently about what our new ‘normal’ looks like. This is an opportunity to ask ourselves,
What is the purpose of our family unit, what values and experiences are we going to explore together?
1. Go on a Nature Walk
Have a meaningful conversation with your family about what is really important in life. Being outside allows each person to be grounded. Literally grounded - everyone has their feet on the ground and the stimulus is the same for everyone. No phones, emails, video games are getting in the way of developing the beginning of a family mission statement.
What is really important to this family?
Studies have shown “urban life is connected with increased levels of depression, New York Times revealed that even walk in the park can improve mental health”. Limit the news you are receiving and connect with your family and nature – the clouds passing, the smell of spring, a bird eating a worm. You will be surprised what you see and hear in your own backyard or a stroll down your sidewalk. It will increase your daily productivity and decrease stress and anxiety in your home.
1. Create Treasures Together
As you are walking have each family member collect something from the outdoors when it is their time to share what is important to them. This could create a meaningful dialogue with your family.
“Did you know squirrels eat pinecones?” I was recently asked this by a 2-year-old during a family walk.
There are no right or wrong answers as long as everyone has a chance to share what is important to them. Take the collection of treasures home and put them in a jar, make a collage… take pictures of your family when they are on a walk. Allow each person to share a story (or just a word) that represents the feeling that they were experiencing on the walk. Looking at pictures can recreate the experience and help decrease stress in our day to day lives. Place the memories somewhere they can be seen by the whole family as a reminder of what your family feels is really important in life. This can allow you to escape to natural settings even when you are unable to physically be there. Above all, make the outdoors part of your family schedule.
Look for painted rocks in your communities, or make your own.
3. Build on Individual Strengths and Interests.
A strength-based approach can assist children and youth to develop character traits such as empathy, kindness, humility, confidence and really explore just how brave they can be. Each family member is an expert in their own right.
A person may have an interest in astronomy - have the family member explain what the stars are of interest to them and why?
If a person loves music, ask them to develop a playlist and create a campfire Karaoke adventure. The campfire could be created as a craft for an indoor campout that would include campfire Karaoke songs, a digital fire, an indoor fireplace or out in the backyard around an actual fire on a calm starry night – be creative, the possibilities are endless.
Another example could be a child’s love for animals, reptiles, birds… One of my fondest memories is when one of my grandchildren used to showcase their “Reptile Road Show” to us with their stuffed animals. It was an ongoing event that brought the family together in a fun and learning environment.
Hint: The children are the experts on reptiles *wink. This brings confidence in learning, public speaking, and validation that their interests are important.
Australian positive psychologist Lea Waters has another solution, “focus on what your kids love and what energizes them, and let the rest go.” Not every experience has to allow you to provide teachable moments to your children. Let your child’s strengths shine. Walters book, The Strength Switch: How the New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen Flourish suggests that strength-based parenting is deceptively simple: raise confident, well-adjusted, resilient children, zero in on their strengths, not their weaknesses.
4. Share the Power in Family Dynamics
Connections are developed through trust, commitment, and honesty. Repetition of good connections will only build stronger family connections. This can be an enormous asset in developing blended family rituals. When both homes consistently allow for outdoor experiences a smoother transition can take place. Blended families might not agree on somethings but they most often agree that developing resilient children is a common interest. Nature and the outdoors are a very good neutral ground that can develop a solid foundation for change and growth.
Have the children and youth develop a scavenger hunt for the adults in the boundaries that are clearly defined by everyone. Build boats and race them in the gutters, creeks or streams, make rockets and have a launch party. Build bird houses together and have a painting party.
Make a boat of of paper, recycled bottles, or corks!
5. Creative Play
This helps children and youth to explore possibilities. Leaders are made through the confidence to explore possibilities. Leaders have the ability to engage in divergent thinking. (the ability to come up with many different ideas, story themes and symbolism).
Creative play helps you understand what thoughts your child is processing and ways in which they are exploring ways to solve dilemmas and succeed.
How many times have we attempted to make the perfect snow fort, tent or the castle built with cardboard boxes? It was overcoming the obstacles that made the building of a structure extra sweet. Russ, explains, in longitudinal studies, that early imaginative play was associated with increased creative performance years later. 
For some fabulous ideas connect with Christine Burnett from childhood101.com, there are some amazing resources like this article, 7 Essential Steps to Creating an outdoor Play area for kids of all ages.
Creative play is imperative for healthy child development. For this author, it is not the stereotypical expectations society has on how to raise well-behaved children that make our future leaders. It is the safety and security of family connections that create brave, resilient individuals. I invite you and your family to allow for opportunities that will create healthy individuals who explore nature, take risks, have the confidence to go into the unknown and of course, do something remarkable…go wild.
Cheryl McDougall, MSW, RSW is a social work professional with a background in group programming, advocacy, policy development, mediation and, counselling. She is a mother to three children and grandmother to 5 grandchildren, she loves spending time outdoors hiking, snowshoeing, and gathered around the campfire with family.
 Raven, R. (2017, March 3). 4 Reasons Connecting With Nature Can Be Great for Your Health. Retrieved from https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/reasons-nature-can-be-great-for-your-health
 Kaufman, S. B. (2012, March 6). The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beautiful-minds/201203/the-need-pretend-play-in-child-development
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