Secrets of Stress-Free Family Time
Here's how to downshift from a busy day so you can relax and reconnect with the ones you love.
"When I'm supertired, I stretch out on the living room floor and let my kids climb all over me. My two younger children especially love this. Being down on the ground with them keeps me from even being able to look at the things that need to get done, like the stack of mail on the table that needs sorting. I'm more present, and my kids sense that. My focus is on them and the closeness we're sharing. Plus, I get to lie down for a little while!" —Bernadette Noll, 44, Austin, TX; mom to Lucy, 11, Otto, 9, Esme, 6, and Dean, 2
Do a Pet Project
"Our golden retriever, Ajax, waits patiently for us all day. After I take him to the curb to do his business, I sit in the living room with my kids and play monkey in the middle, tossing a ball around the room over his head. Sometimes he intercepts a fly ball, sometimes he'll chase it to the intended recipient, sometimes he'll fetch. It's always a source of much hilarity. No matter what kind of mood I'm in when I get home, playing with Ajax and my kids puts us all in an affectionate mood. His unconditional love is contagious." —Molly Gordy, 54, New York City; mom to Chloe, 19, and Sophie, 11
Move It, Move It!
"We dance around the living room to one of my older son's favorite tunes — 'Don't Worry, Be Happy,' or anything by Chuck Berry. While my husband and I dance on the rug, our older son likes to jump off the couch and do spins. The 2-year-old shimmies his hips and has a few jazz moves. Our evening dance party takes me right out of my world of work and clients and into the world of laughter and music with all of my boys." —Lisa Tener, 45, Saunderstown, RI; mom to Will, 8, and Luke, 2
Search and Enjoy
"I take my kids on a treasure hunt after dinner. On a piece of paper, I write numbers from 1 to 4. Next to each number I'll write an object and draw a simple picture of it. For example: 1 stone, 2 acorns, 3 leaves, 4 twigs. I then give each of my children a bag and we go around the neighborhood and try to collect all of the items in the quantities stated. After a busy day in front of my computer, being in nature with my kids soothes me and gets us all on the same page." —Shona Killoughery, 28, Huntington Beach, CA; mom to Eire, 5, and TC, 3