Do your kids contribute to your family life? I’m not talking about doing chores. I’m talking about how your kids actually make a contribution to your family life. Do you have a child who loves to tell jokes? Are they always making the family laugh? That’s contributing to family life. Does one of your kids like to plan the family fun night? That’s contributing to family life.
So I am asking you to think about how your kids contribute to your family life. And why is it important?
Think about all the groups you belong to, your family, your friend groups, your work colleagues, your high school/college friends, a sports team, a book club, your church…. The list goes on. In each of these groups you make a contribution. Your contribution gives you a sense of belonging. It builds your self esteem and helps to bond with others. Making contributions to your groups helps you feel like an integral part of that group, like you are important.
You want your kids to have high self esteem, to bond well with others, to feel like an important part of the family. So you need them to contribute to family life.
The following are 10 ways for you to consider having your kids contribute to your family life. There are 10 because not all families will connect with each of these suggestions. Find what works for you and your family. It’s up to you to choose.
Save money for a special item
When I was a kid, our family decided we wanted a speed boat. We loved to go to cabins in the summer and water ski, but we didn’t have our own boat. Mom and Dad were saving for it, but decided to involve the kids. Mom put an empty coffee can on the top of the fridge. It was labeled Boat Fund. Whenever we had extra coins we dropped them into the can.
Now I know our contributions didn’t make a big dent in the cost of the boat, but we all felt we had contributed. When Dad pulled into the driveway with our new boat and trailer we all felt that the boat belonged to us.
Is your family planning a trip? Saving for a big purchase? Why not involve your kids by putting out a coffee can.
Create a beautiful Table
Every family has special meals at some time or another. It might be around the holidays, for birthdays or a special event. The contribution of one of your kids to this special event could be allowing them to let their imagination run wild and decorate the table. This could mean centerpieces, flowers, place markers, etc.
Kids often have fun ideas when it comes to decorating and letting them use their ideas for a table is a great way to encourage their creativity. And after the meal is over you can pack away whatever crazy decorations they chose.
Help with Household Repair
Doing small repairs around the house is an ongoing task, so why not encourage and teach your kids how to do it? It starts with having them change a lightbulb, but it can grow to learning how to unclog a drain. Lots of kids have a knack for mechanics. By the time my brother was a teen, he knew how to fix most anything that went wrong with our cars.
An added benefit to this way of contributing to the family life, is that your kids are learning a life-long skill that may save them money in the future.
A good way to start is to have your kids with you when you do repairs and ask them to assist. This helps them to feel comfortable doing the work and important in your eyes. When my daughter was in high school, she and I painted the outside of the house together. It was a huge undertaking! But she knew she had contributed to the family and we definitely bonded.
Hang Their Artwork on the Walls
This small act of recognition can make your child’s heart happy. Decorating the house is a great way to contribute to the beauty of your home. Not all kids have an artistic talent that is ready for framing, but there are other ways to use their art in your house. Some families place a string clothes line in a public spot in the house and use clothes pins to hang the latest painting or drawing. Maybe there is a spot for your child’s art in the bedroom hallway or guest bath.
Don’t forget the frame! It is amazing how a frame can really bring a child’s drawing to a new level of beauty. By choosing to hang the artwork in a place other than on the refrigerator, you are not only helping your child contribute to the family, you are also affirming their artistic talent.
Another alternative is to ask them to help you pick out artwork for your walls. Give them some ideas of what colors and designs you were thinking about and let them search for just the right thing. You may be surprised at what they come up with.
Redecorate A Room
While we are talking about decorating, how about letting them redecorate their room. Let them do it all! Paint, wallpaper, curtains, and a rug could all be part of the DIY redo. This is a great chance to teach them about finances while you encourage their creativity and let them contribute to the family. You may find they have a talent for decorating.
Twice during my growing up years, my mom let me redo my room. It was so empowering and affirming to me. We planned together and talked about options. I did the work with some supervision from mom. But apparently not enough supervision, because once I hung all the wallpaper upside down! We laugh about it now.
Use a Kindness Jar
A Kindness Jar works this way. You put the names of every family member on a small bit of paper, fold it and put it into the jar. Each morning all the family members choose a name. It is up to them to do some kindness for that person during the day. Added mystery happens if you don’t tell whose name you picked. This simple practice contributes to the family by making it a friendlier, happier place for everyone. And it teaches kids to be deliberate about being kind.
If your family is small you could include the names of grandparents, neighbors or school friends in the mix. At the next family meal, talk about the ways you were kind that day and try to guess who had your name.
Plan the Menu for the week
This is a great way for kids to contribute to the family. Give your child some guidance about costs and weekly commitments, but let them have the freedom to choose hot dogs when you would rather have a healthier meal. After they plan the meals, they should write down all the ingredients that are needed and check what needs to be on the grocery list. They could even do the shopping.
Planning the meals is a way to contribute, but also teaches them about the tasks that parents take on every day to provide for the family. So besides building their self esteem, you also build their skills for adulthood.
Prepare Dinner for the Family
You may not be ready for your kids to take over planning the whole week’s menu, but how about letting them be in charge of one meal? If they have never cooked before, plan a meal that is easy to prepare and then guide them as they make it happen. It will take longer than usual, but the results are awesome. Even if it is just tacos, your child will feel proud of their accomplishment.
If you have older kids, why not put them in charge of dinner on a regular basis? Our family has great stories of meals cooked by teenagers. My favorite is the time my daughter mistook a whole bulb of garlic for one clove of garlic. That meatloaf was inedible. (For everyone, except Dad)
Plan a weekend outing/event
If your family time usually involves a weekend outing, why not let the kids plan it? This includes mapping directions, figuring out expenses, planning the departure time, checking on ticket prices and so on. Let them really be in charge. Kids have great talents for searching the web, your kids shouldn’t have a problem finding out all the details for a family outing.
You can take it a step further by having them help plan the family vacation. Each child in the family could take a day of the vacation and decide what the activity will be for that day. They can research where you are going and look around for fun things to do. This also keeps them more engaged and excited during the vacation.
Bring Family Laughter
Give your kids opportunities to make the family laugh. Laughter is enormously healing. We all need more laughter in our lives. So why not have laughter be a goal for your family? Challenge your kids to bring home their favorite joke of the day, share a funny moment or show a video that made them laugh. Laughing together builds strong bonds.
Many families share their “high and low” together at the end of the day. How about adding “share something funny” from today. By encouraging your kids’ sense of humor you are teaching them to find fun in life. You are teaching them to be happy.
Certainly there are more than these 10 ways for kids to contribute to family life, but this is a start.
Letting your kids contribute to the family has many benefits. One of the best is the sense of belonging. As your kids contribute more and more to a healthy family their sense of belonging deepens. A sense of belonging empowers them to cope with life’s difficulties. And that is a great outcome.