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I’ve wanted to write this blog post for months now, but now it seems even more timely. Our world, our country, our lives have changed since the pandemic swept across the globe. Our kids are schooling at home, and most businesses have scrambled to provide work-at-home opportunities, vacations have been canceled or postponed, relatives and friends can no longer be visited. And unfortunately, lives have been lost.
Every day new statistics are scrolled on the bottom of the tv screen, and the fear seems to mount. At this point, I’m not sure where this will end or will take a turn for the better. I do KNOW that we can still make memories with our family members and those we love during challenging times. The ability to create special memories during challenging times with loved ones is true today was true last year, and this will be true in the future.
Life is full of ups and downs. Unfortunately, life circumstances can happen when we least expect it. We dream of special vacations to Disney World with our family. We finalize all the details, including matching shirts and the perfect hotel. But sometimes something terrible happens. Maybe a few days before you’re scheduled to fly out, a family member passes away. So your dream vacation is canceled. Or you plan to use our bonus money for new flooring in your family room. You picture a family Christmas around the tree and how everything looks with your new flooring, but instead, you find out your employer is laying you off, and there will be no bonuses given. Making memories around the Christmas tree won’t be as you dreamt. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful Christmas. It won’t fulfill your dream of new flooring, but it doesn’t change the fact that your family can still gather and create amazing memories.
Here are ten ways you and your family can create memories during a difficult season of life.
Make a different plan
My son’s junior prom will most likely be postponed because of the pandemic. Prom is usually a highlight for a high schooler. And I don’t think it’s any different for my junior. He’s never been to prom. I was looking forward to it. We already booked the tux, and his girlfriend picked out her dress months ago. It will be very easy to be thoroughly disappointed, especially the day of the scheduled prom. Instead, I’ve already started planning how he/we can still make it a memorable day. It won’t be the same. It just won’t. That doesn’t mean we have to wallow in “what it should be like.” I plan to have my husband cook his favorite meal, BBQ ribs. And maybe I can talk him into dressing up so I can snap a few pictures. Making a plan, I think, will help him, still have a memorable day of what could have been but what we did instead to make it unique.
Shift your Mindset
Our last family trip was to the beach, and the number 1 thing we wanted to do was go on a snorkel trip. I booked the excursion, but a few hours before the scheduled day trip, we got a call from the tour company telling us they needed to cancel because of high winds. My husband immediately said, “Ok, that doesn’t mean we still can’t have fun. Let’s make a different plan for the day.” And we did. We went on a day trip in the car and saw things we wouldn’t if we had snorkeled. We never did get to go snorkeling on that trip. Every day was too windy for the small boats to be on the water. We still found ways to make our trip memorable. And that’s the goal anyway. So shift your mindset!
Shift your mindset of what you expect from making memories. Don’t say, “We don’t get to go on Disney trip this year as a family because of a terrible snowstorm canceled our flights, and it ruined our plans.” Change it to, “We are safe at home together, and we can still have family fun at home. You can’t control the weather, but what you can control is your attitude.
Yes, quit comparing your memory-making to other’s social media posts. At Christmas, you might see your creative friend’s social media feed with fun, festive, and impressive Elf on the Shelf ideas, but you can’t even remember to move it to a new spot each night, let alone think of something new and creative. Give your self grace. Your kids will be ok. Turn off social media. Take the apps off your phone. And instead, replace over-the-top traditions with simple traditions. Which leads me to the next way you can make memories during a difficult season of life…
Keep your traditions simple. When it’s a trying time with either lack of money or lack of health, keep it simple. Don’t try to overdo it. Don’t fill your schedule with items that aren’t part of your values or priorities. Learn to say no. Set realist expectations around your family traditions. And having simple traditions doesn’t mean you can’t make amazing memories.
Some of our best vacation spots are a few hours in a cabin or camper. They don’t take thousands of dollars and months of planning. They are simple. We don’t book excursions or set a schedule. The activities include scooping sand into a bucket to make a sandcastle, kayaking down the river, and marshmallows over the fire—simplicity at its best.
Give to others– When you remember others, it takes the focus off you and your situation. During this current global crisis, think of ways you can help. A few ideas are to sew masks with your kids for health care workers, make cards for those you love, or play a game on Zoom with grandparents. Then take pictures of the activities that you did to help others. Documenting the good deeds will help your kids relive the memories of giving to others.
Comfort food and Family Recipes
The meal itself might not create lasting memories, but time around the table as a family will create memories. And bringing the memory-making into the kitchen can make it even more memorable. Teaching your kids how to cook and bake will live with them for a lifetime. Ask them what they might want to learn how to cook. Teach them how to cook their favorite recipes. Make them cook a whole meal and serve a whole meal for you. We all have to eat, so why not make happy memories while doing it.
Celebrate the Little Things
You can find joy every single day, no matter how small. You may need to look for it. It’s the silver lining in life. Celebrate the little things like sunrises and sunsets.
I remember the morning of my grandpa’s funeral, my aunt; his daughter watched a hot air balloon inflate and take off in her backyard. What an extra special for her because her dad loved hot air balloons. This was a sign to us that even during a difficult day, there is something to smile about and to appreciate. Take time to find joy in the everyday. You might also consider keeping a gratitude journal to keep track of the little things that bring you joy.
Create Happy Celebrations
Create a happy celebration during challenging times. At my aunt’s funeral, we released balloons. The same night we shot off fireworks. (which she loved fireworks). It happened to also by my son’s 5th birthday, so we had a birthday cake and tried not to forget his special day.
The night before my daughter’s surgery, we went swimming. We had a plan to celebrate the night before a scary situation for her so she could have something to look forward to before the surgery.
Document and Take photos
During stressful times you might not think to get out the camera. Maybe the season of life is so challenging you don’t want to remember it. However, later when the storm passes over, you may want to share those challenging days with kids to remind you all how strong you are and how you can still create beautiful memories during the storm.
You tend to get more creative during a difficult season of life, like when you have less money to spend or feel like you have less time. During this season of shelter in place, we’re spending more family time together watching movies and in our back yard. We’re getting out the craft and science kits that were purchased months, maybe years ago, and we’re having fun making some memories.
So there you have it, ten ways to still create meaningful memories with your family during challenging times. You can do it! Let me know how you pause during difficult times to find joy and make memories.
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