Cultivating joy as a family

The pandemic has been hard on families. There has been so much loss, so much hardship, so much stress, and so much change. What makes it even harder is that there is so much uncertainty about when and how it will end; our lives, and the lives of our children, are going to be disrupted for the foreseeable future.

There is so much we cannot control in all of this that it’s easy to lose sight of what we can control. One thing we absolutely can do is cultivate small moments of joy each and every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, or anything fancy or complicated. That’s the thing about joy: it can be very simple.

Children have a great capacity for joy. It doesn’t take much to make them happy. It’s even easier to make them happy if you do something with them — which can have the added benefit of making parents happy too, as the joy of children can be infectious.

Bringing the joy

Here are some ideas for simple, fun things you can do as a family that can bring joy. You can adapt them to the age and temperament of your child.

  • Play board games. If you feel like it, change the rules (which may make them more accessible for younger children). You can even make up your own board game, with some cardboard and markers and whatever you want to use for board game pieces.
  • Bake! There’s nothing like making sweets to make everyone happy. A box of brownie mix or premade cookie dough is fine. Nobody is going to judge you.
  • Paint and draw. If you can, go outside and do it.
  • Build things — from blocks, cardboard, anything. Make a city. Leave it up and add to it. Build a fort, inside or outside, and have a picnic or sleepover in it.
  • Go for walks as a family; play I Spy as you go. Family bike rides can be fun, too. Or just kick a ball around. Anything you can do to be active somewhere without a ceiling is great.
  • Play dress-up. Dig out clothes from your closet. Be fancy (your local dry cleaner could use some business) or silly.
  • Put on a play (perhaps while dressed up). You could hang a sheet as a curtain. Or do a puppet show. if you don’t have puppets, they are easy to make with socks and markers. Have someone film it on their phone so you can all watch it together.
  • The readout is loud. There are so many books that are exciting and fun to listen to. You can start with books written for children and branch out to classics. My children really enjoyed books by E.B. White and Roald Dahl, as well as the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. You can take turns reading if you have older children.
  • Put on music, clear a space, and have some fun.

You can get everyone in the family involved in coming up with ideas. Have people write things down on index cards or pieces of paper and put them in a bag or bowl, and then choose randomly or together. Try to devote some regular time at least a few times a week to just being happy. It could be a family ritual — maybe even one that takes root and becomes a permanent part of your family life.

Those moments can add up, you’ll see. It doesn’t change the way the world is now, but anything we can do that makes us relax and be happy, and gives us a pleasant memory, is good — and good for us.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? (Genesis 18:24) And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” (Genesis 18:26)

And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’” Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” (Genesis 32:20)
to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. (Genesis 50:17)

“Forgive my sin, just this once, and plead with the Lord your God to take away this death from me.” (Exodus 10:17)
Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. (Exodus 23:21)

Moses Intercedes for Israel The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin, but I will go back up to the Lord on the mountain. Perhaps I will be able to obtain forgiveness for your sin.” (Exodus 32:30) So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. (Exodus 32:31) But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!” (Exodus 32:32)

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6) I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:7)

And he said, “O Lord, if it is true that I have found favor with you, then please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession.” (Exodus 34:9)
just as he does with the bull offered as a sin offering for the high priest. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:20) Then he must burn all the goat’s fat on the altar, just as he does with the peace offering. Through this process, the priest will purify the leader from his sin, making him right with the Lord, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:26)

Then he must remove all the goat’s fat, just as he does with the fat of the peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar, and it will be a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31) Then he must remove all the sheep’s fat, just as he does with the fat of a sheep presented as a peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar on top of the special gifts presented to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people from their sin, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:35)

The priest will then prepare the second bird as a burnt offering, following all the procedures that have been prescribed. Through this process the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the Lord, and you will be forgiven. (Leviticus 5:10) Through this process, the priest will purify those who are guilty of any of these sins, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the flour will belong to the priest, just as with the grain offering.” (Leviticus 5:13)

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