Joyful Connections

Apparently, August is Family Fun Month! Thinking back to my childhood, August was typically a fun month for our family. Growing up in the UK, school was out, which meant we would take our annual family camping trip. The unpredictable British weather always made this a memorable event. One of my favorite memories is sharing take-out fish and chips wrapped in newspaper while seated on the sea wall. The waves would heave and crash below as we’d shiver from the brisk salty air and an indecisive rain shower. These are treasured moments captured in the sights, sounds, and smells of childhood. Isn’t it funny, the things we remember? If you reflect on your own childhood, it’s likely that you, too, remember the little things.

Interestingly, researchers have found that it’s those seemingly insignificant, small moments of connection that have the greatest impact on our relationships.3  Snapshots of time that we share with someone, feeling understood and accepted by them, can strengthen our relationship for a lifetime.2,3,8  In other words, it’s not the big events but those small, joyful, and often imperfect moments that lead to genuine and real connections.

Home visits can be an excellent opportunity for small, joyful moments of connection and family fun. In fact, having fun is one of the most important components of a home visit.4  Scientists say that our brains are hardwired to have fun playing and exploring together, so when you invite families to have fun, you not only support attachment relationships but create a positive learning environment and reduce stress, too.2,5,7  For young children, sharing moments of joy with their parents can also wire their brains to readily connect to others, making parenting easier.1,7,8

Thankfully, supporting families to have fun doesn’t have to involve camping trips or eating out of newspaper in the rain! As you get to know a family, you’ll discover the things that are interesting and meaningful to them. Encouraging families to have fun doesn’t need to wait for parent-child activities either, it can happen at any point in a visit as you make room for spontaneous play and laughter. Supporting parents to simply enjoy their child’s company is a great place to start.6

If you’re going to be successful at supporting families to have fun, it’s also necessary to take time for a little fun yourself. The parallel process means that when you laugh and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, the ripple effect of joy can spill over to the families you partner with. At Great Kids®, we set aside one meeting a month dedicated to laughing and having fun together. Not only does it build our relationships, but it also refreshes us in our daily work. What are some opportunities in your personal and professional life to laugh and have fun?

Seeing as having fun affords so many benefits, you might also look for ways to support families to have fun outside of visits, too. The internet’s full of free family fun ideas, from building forts to having picnics to playing games. Connecting families to fun local events can strengthen their relationships outside the home, too.

When it comes to having fun, why not make EVERY month family fun month?

References

1. Lally, J. R., & Mangione, P. (2017, May). Caring relationships: The heart of early brain development. Young Children, 72(2). https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/may2017/caring-relationships-heart-early-brain-development

2. Perry, B. D. (2001). Curiosity: The fuel of development. Scholastic Early Childhood Today, 15(6), 22-23.

3. Perry, B. D., & Winfrey, O. (2021). What happened to you? Conversations on trauma, resilience, and healing. Flatiron Books.

4. Roggman, L. A., Boyce, L. K., & Innocenti, M. S. (2008). Developmental Parenting: A guide for early childhood practitioners.

5. Savage, B. M., Lujan, H. L., Thipparthu, R. R. & DiCarlo, S. E. (2017, July 5). Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief review. Advances in Physiology Education, 41(3), 341-347. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00030.2017

6. Shanker, S. (2016). Self-reg: How to help your child (and you) break the stress cycle and successfully engage with life. Penguin Books.

7. Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. Ballantine Books.

8. Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2021). The power of showing up. Bantam Books.

About the Author
Melissa Weekes is a Product Development Specialist. Prior to joining Great Kids® in 2018, she worked as a home visitor with Public Health Services where she used the Growing Great Kids® Curriculum. Melissa lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and enjoys any opportunity to be creative!

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