With all the pressures and struggles that come with a long day in school, I was noticing that my girls were coming home frustrated and exhausted. The tension from their hard days was being expressed as soon as they walked in the door. I was prepared for this. One of the reasons I decided not to look for work right away was to be able to be home and present with my kids when they got home. I did not want to be juggling household chores and other responsibilities when they needed my undivided attention to discuss the day and work through homework. But, even with me available, I could tell the kids were still not feeling happy.
We had a family meeting to discuss how we can make our home a more pleasant place. I wanted my children to feel safe and happy at home. I wanted them to feel that they can talk about anything that happened at school without feeling judged, but even more, I wanted them to enjoy being home. If they knew that at the end of each difficult day, they could come home and feel relief and joy, it might help them get through the obstacles and hard times.
I am blessed with some creative and intuitive kids. The first suggestion they gave was to have a “happy home snack”. That means that before they get home each day I choose a special snack for them to enjoy as soon as they come home. I think that like most kids, my girls come home famished no matter how much they ate during the day. Instead of having a discussion about what they should eat each day, I lovingly choose something ahead of time. That way, when they get in, they have something special to eat. It does not have to be glamorous; sometimes it is simply a grapefruit or an applesauce, but it helps ease the transition.
The next suggestion was to have a cheerful smiley face on our front door. The girls thought it would help remind them that when they walk through the front door, they are entering into our “happy home’”. We enjoyed coloring it, and putting it up. I have to say, even I feel a bit more cheerful when I walk through the door after looking at our smiley face.
Part of having a happy home is making our day to day activities go smoothly. One such tactic we have started to use to help make cleaning up and putting away laundry more fun, we make it a dance party. We listen to cheerful music and try to clean up before the song is over. We usually end up just dancing and giggling once the chore is over. Instead of nagging my girls to clean up their toys, we enjoy doing it.
My last strategy for a happy home is to make a checklist of the tasks that need to be completed. This works specifically well on Friday afternoon when there is a long list of things that need to be done. Before the girls get home from school, I write a list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished by Shabbat. Each girl has a chance to check off her list as she completes each item on the list. When all of their items are checked off, they get a small reward. The checklist has been helping my children see what needs to be done and feel accomplished as the list gets checked off.
Doing these four things has made a big difference in our home. The atmosphere feels calmer and happier. When the kids come home from a rough day at school, they know they have a warm and loving place to come home to. I am sure we will continue to develop new strategies and ideas as necessary, but for now, I am proud to say we are working towards making a happy home.