5 Unexpected Perspective Shifts to Create Meaningful Bonding Time with Your Family
My Family’s New Year’s Resolution to Create Daily Micro-Connections Together
What a New Year Means to Me
My family celebrates 3 different New Years every year.
I often joke that it gives me 3 chances to pause.
You know, in case I miss it the first two times. 😂
First comes the New Year we celebrate around the world on January 1st. Second is the Lunar New Year because of my family’s Cantonese heritage. The third is the newest that came into my life along with my partner. For over 15 years now my annual trifecta of fresh starts begins in fall with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Even if you only celebrate one official New Year each year, chances are you consider your birthday an annual milestone. One that causes you to take stock and possibly make new promises to yourself.
And during my years as a student, I also found the start of each new school year to welcome me with a clean slate and anticipation for yet unknown adventures.
So with all these opportunities to experience life’s new beginnings, perhaps you’d think making New Year’s resolutions was a common thing for me.
But it hasn’t always been.
I used to think: if something’s worth doing then start at any time! It seemed so gimmicky to me to commit to a new habit only because it was the start of a new year.
So that’s why I avoided creating New Year’s resolutions for so long.
And then suddenly, a perspective shift…
My #1 Priority Every Day is to Connect with my Family
What I Once Thought About Resolutions
I remember one cold December I was walking along Yonge Street in downtown Toronto when suddenly a very furry microphone the size of a large possum was thrust below my chin.
A smiling reporter asked if I would share my New Year’s resolution and I demurred that he’d probably not like what I’d have to say.
When he encouraged me to share anyway, all I could say as sweetly as possible was that I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.
That resulted in a different kind of mic drop. 😅
Realizing the Gift of New Year's Resolutions
About two years ago, right before the “High Holidays” we finally joined our local synagogue so that our quickly growing children could learn more about their paternal traditions.
I find annual moments that are collectively observed to be quite poignant, don’t you? Being a part of a community, small or global, where you can get the sense that everything – and everyone – just pauses.
It’s like a massive group sigh of peace.
We’ve lived another year and now it’s time to stop a moment and look around.
Gather our bearings.
Appreciate all that we’ve experienced and accomplished.
While I forget the exact words from the Rabbi, I believe I’ll always remember their sentiment: that a new year is a time to recognize the cyclical nature of life.
There’s something inescapable about it. I’ve learned to embrace it as a gentle reminder. It gives me permission to evaluate all I’ve done and all I still plan to do.
Most importantly, it prompts me to reflect on all the habits I’ve wanted to incorporate yet haven’t.
Perhaps it’s because of my typical tendencies to be optimistic but I always see this as a motivating thing.
I’m excited! Here’s another fresh foundation on which I can build something with intention!
False Starts and Going the Distance Together
My kids grow every single day. The youngest is 4 and he constantly surprises me with new things he can do, new questions he asks.
How can I be more intentional and consistent about joining him on his journey through life?
How can I ensure we connect every single day in a way that matters. That leaves him feeling seen and loved. And me feeling like I’ve grown because I’ve learned to see the world through his eyes better?
It’s with this whole back story that I invite you to consider making this New Year’s resolution with me.
For me and it seems countless others, 2020 gave us more time physically with our immediate families but with less time to really enjoy them somehow.
Constantly fighting the frenetic demands to multitask parenting with ambitious work left little time for focused, quality family time.
So I’m making it a conscious decision to be extra purposeful about my days in 2021.
Creating a Family Habit Together
I think many of us looked at the dawn of 2020 with great hope and anticipation.
For January 1st, I made a commitment to have a habitual shared experience with each individual member of my immediate family, every single day.
Our greatest challenge this year will be to make and keep it a daily habit. But I’m not worried, we’ve done it before.
A Checklist of 5 Unusual Mindset Shifts Before Bonding Activities with Our Kids
My kids have been my greatest teachers. Here’s a summary of the mental checklist I run through whenever I’m spending quality time with my kids.
We discovered these through our treasured “one-on-one dates” and much of these perspective shifts are informed by research into learning, teamwork, and memory formation. From the practice we gained in dedicated time to each other, we learned to be more present even when we were all together.
Over the years I’ve shared these techniques with families who came through our doors to experience our live in-person events. The results have always been surprising to the parents. And empowering.
1. One-on-One Time Together
We first discovered the magic in having one-on-one time with our children when our kids were 6 and 4 years old.
With no other distractions, we could focus all our attention on each other.
I saw my children in completely new ways. Like I was meeting them for the first time. Like we were on a special parent-child date together.
2. Take Off the Parenting Hat
One thing we remind ourselves is that time spent together is for everyone’s benefit.
And parenting non-stop is exhausting. The great news is that you don’t have to even if it feels impossible to take off this parenting hat.
Whenever we relate with our children as if they are their own individual people, guess what?! They rise up to the occasion.
3. Shared Immersive Experiences
Life is full of so many distractions and one of the greatest challenges is dealing with screen time overload!
These tiny things we keep in our pockets grab our attention and yet! They are but pale imitations of life with their two-dimensional screens and tinny speakers.
It’s so easy for us to forget about the richness of a full-body experience where we are present to all our physical senses.
But when we fully commit to the moment, the moment opens up for us and reveals gifts that once seen, can take our breath away.
4. Be Present & Vulnerable
My children know I’m imperfect.
And it’s not because I’m such a terrible person.
Often when frustration and anger get the better of me, I remind them that I know I’m not a perfect parent. Perfection isn’t something we seek and we recognize our intentions need to be trusted.
When we fail to live up to our ideals, we prop each other up.
When we let our guards down we can more authentically connect with someone else. This is especially true when this someone is capable of such deep unconditional love as a child is.
5. Learning & Teamwork
Especially as adults, it often takes work to experience something new.
Working together as a team, in a situation that’s new to everyone, where no one is “the expert,” gives adults a chance to grow and lets children shine.
Learning to communicate better with each other is one way to guarantee a meaningful bonding experience.
6. Create Memories with Emotion
I’m fascinated with learning about how we learn. With that research comes insights into how we form memories.
Experiences that are charged with emotion are more likely to get seared into our memories.
What this means is that, even in the midst of chaos and tiring work, making space for a strong emotional bonding moment can help you create the memory of your choosing.
Years later, what will stick won’t be all the times you spent apart working on separate things, but rather the moments together.
The memorable micro-connections where you open your hearts and truly connect.
What do you think?
Some might say a lot of what I wrote above seems like common sense – even if it’s not commonly practiced.
I find it a helpful reminder all the same. Like a quick mental checklist to get me focused on the moment.
What surprised or intrigued you? Please leave a comment
The Promise: every day, form a simple micro-connection with each person in my family.
As you can see from my pictures, I’ve got three young children who mean the world to me. The eldest is 10, almost my height, and can seem 16 or 6 depending on his mood. His sister is 8 and incredibly looks more like me every day it seems. She’s got a fiery spark about her to match. Our littlest is 4 and he’s still small enough to sit on my hip as I cuddle and walk around with him.
And then there’s everyone’s little sibling, LIOHAN, my 4th “child”. That is, this startup on whose website you’re reading this. The very being into which I’m breathing all my hopes for making this world a better place.
To help others increase their levels of awareness of their truest selves, their dearest loved ones, and this awe-inspiring world.
To give people glimpses into worlds that might outside their day-to-day experiences. To share different perspectives.
Ambitious goals resulting from a life filled with passion.
We take bleeding-edge research and turn them into actionable, fun activities for families!
To entertain and to blow people’s minds.
10 Fun Activities to do with your Family that will Change your Perspectives
1. How Well Can You Copy My Goofy Face? Quick Mirror Game
This was a favourite silly little game I created with my brother when we were little. We still play it!
Quick! What’s the goofiest face you can make?
Do it in the mirror and have your loved one copy you!
You may notice nuanced ways you look alike and can create some of the same expressions with ease. This can be true even if you’re not biologically related. Just being around someone all the time, a part of them will rub off on you.
2. My Alien Child Has a Mouth in their Forehead! Upside-Down Talking
This takes seeing to believe.
And believing to “see” it.
With one person lying down, position yourselves upside-down to each other, and also so that you can look in each other’s eyes.
Stare intently until your mind convinces you that you’re looking at your partner “upside UP.” Our brains are trained to see things this way so it will be faster than you think.
Let the conversation flow naturally.
Now slowly, pull back from each other a little and start noticing how their mouth is now in their forehead. If your partner has hair on their head, it’s now a beard!
It takes a little bit of imagination and suspension of disbelief but trust me. This works! And it’s trippy. And it’s super fun.
3. Interactive Cooperative Games Where Even the Youngest Can Shine
Sometimes we all want a break to just relax and have fun together.
We want to be entertained with minimal effort and we also want to interact with each other. To be active, not just passive.
Though we don’t spend much time on screens – aside from Saturdays, our two older children get 15 minutes per day for digital content – we really enjoyed playing a video game together.
It was a special one. The re-imagined classic A Boy and His Blob.
We loved it because even though it’s a “single player” game, we could work together as a team to come up with solutions to the different puzzles. And the game was easy to pick up and stop at any time.
When, after over a year of on and off playing, we beat the final boss, we continued to play this “in real life.” Here’s a fun little video – our first movie ever! – that we made to inspire others.
We also really enjoy board games. Our favourites are cooperative games like Star Trek Panic or at least games that involve everyone even when it’s not their turn. The classic of this is probably Catan. Don’t let the recommended age on the boxes discourage you. We enjoy the Catan – Cities & Knights Expansion that’s designed for ages 12 and up. Leveraging her negotiation skills, our daughter who was 7 years old at the time, beat us all fair and square.
4. Paper Folding - Jar of Wishing Stars
Sometimes the simplest activities can be the most memorable.
Paper folding including the art of origami can bring out so many enjoyable emotions including a sense of peace, excitement, and accomplishment.
With a serene introduction to set the mood, this video guides you as you create a jar filled with loving messages for each other.
Fun and relaxing for families of all ages, you can fill your jar slowly one star at a time or over a mellow afternoon together.
5. What Does Locust Bean Gum Mean to You? Inside Joke Game!
We made this up as a family!
It all started with the impromptu game of coming up with “what is [random word]? [insert name someone who’s presen] would say…” E.g. locust bean gum -> Ephraim’s favourite ingredient.
Yep, makes no sense to you dear reader but to us! We were rolling in stitches. Trust me.
Point is, there have got to be random words/things/places that hold a special “inside joke/knowledge” meaning to you. There’s a whole story behind them. And thinking of what that same word means for each member of your household, and then finding the “best one” – classic bonding, uncommon laughs.
6. Bedtime Story Time as Performance Art
One of the things I love most about spending time with my kids is that I also get to have fun and grow as a person.
I can be a bit of a dramatist sometimes. The acting bug bit me when I was young but I only ever took one drama class in high school and ended up in the pit band for several musicals.
So, staying true to my inside “ham” I get to unleash my amateur actor on my kids during bedtime.
Children’s books are great for this, with their often wacky fantastical settings and lots of dialogue. Try different voices for the characters. Try pacing. Try creating tension and drama.
Not only will your kids love you for it – and if done earnestly, one can hope they never grow out of it – but you’ll get some serious public speaking practice, too!
7. Two Stories and One Tall Tale
Ever hear of two truths and a lie?
Yep. That’s this but with a friendlier name for young impressionable minds where we don’t want to encourage lying perhaps.
I used this as a short activity during an online Mother’s Day Event we ran to celebrate women sheltering-in-place while all proceeds went to a local women’s shelter.
Who knew it’d be such a hit! My daughter especially always asks me to play this with her.
Because I often tell her stories about my youth. We share stories about ourselves that we think our family doesn’t already know.
And believe me. The stories can get tall and those are the true ones.
8. Mindful Physical Activities like Martial Arts and Team Sports
A healthy body supports a healthy mind.
And a family who plays together stays together.
Especially during times like this when it’s cold and mushy outside with nowhere to go because there’s a raging pandemic going on, we need to work together as a family to stay healthy.
It’s a bonus that by collaborating with each other and being mindful of everyone’s needs/skills/abilities, you can create a game or group physical activity that can include everyone.
I’m really into martial arts and sharing that joy with my children fulfills me personally while also being something good I can do as a parent for my kids.
9. Cooking to Nourish the Soul and Tantalize our Senses
Preparing three meals a day, every day is a real chore. Especially with 5 mouths to feed in our house.
It’s also a source of communion and joy when we are intentional about it. Our youngest loves to get involved with mixing.
The best part? It keeps everyone engaged and invested in the meal. And once you get into the groove of things, it’s amazing how it can actually be easier – not harder – with that many cooks in the kitchen.
I found this book once in our public library and it’s on my list of “to buy next” books. It taught me so much about our sense of taste and how different flavours interplay to give you the overall effect of deliciously good food. Aptly called How to Taste by Becky Selengut I’m telling you, even if you are a wizard in the kitchen, I’m sure you’ll learn something from this.
And to learn more about our physical senses together through the experiences of children? Nourishing in all the most important ways.
10. Tasting Chocolate with the Loud Speakers On
…which brings us to the last “different kind of family activity” on this list.
I hope you’ve been inspired to try some of these. If you can create the right setting and really dig deep into your earnest intentions to connect, these activities should really help you see things – and each other – in new ways.
Despite what we likely all learned in school, we don’t “only have” 5 senses and scientists are working on discovering more. During all that research, we’ve also learned more about how different senses impact each other.
Cross-Modal Perception is the somewhat cryptic name but that’s what it’s called and would you believe…what we hear can impact what we taste.
Yes. You read that correctly.
Take a bitter piece of chocolate, listen to this TED Talk at just before the 9 minute mark, and taste the bitterness sharpen. Keep listening and suddenly, as the music lifts, so does the edge and possibly some more sweetness may come out.
This really needs your first-hand experience to believe it.
Just Start Somewhere - Even Just 5 Minutes a Day Can Make All the Difference in Deepening Your Family Bond
Life is busy.
It’s unpredictable yet consistently so. Numbingly exhausting if I don’t catch myself. Exceptionally exciting when I regain my attachment to flow.
Life is also deliciously serene at times. It beckons me forward. With purpose. My children and spouse as constant companions and even more so over 2020.
So I think 2021 will be good to us. We have a better handle on what to expect with extended periods of sheltering-in-place as a family.
So long as we keep our promise to each other. And during those extra tough days, even just acknowledging the intent can be power.
And for the days you want some inspiration for something new and fun to do. When you’re wanting to learn about something totally new, when you want a shared experience that will be rewarding and memorable, we hope you’ll come back here and find something fun to entertain you.