You know that nifty list of adventures you hope to experience before you kick the proverbial bucket? Your family can have a "bucket list," too.
Perhaps your gang wants to raft down the Colorado River, join a family bowling league or simply read the classics together. Is it a trip to Disney your children long for or are they Bears fans who've never seen Soldier Field? Do your environmentally savvy kids talk about planting vegetable gardens and recycling rain water in a quest to become more self-sustaining, or is this the year you'll finally begin that family tradition of seeing the Nutcracker ballet each holiday season? Maybe you simply want to remember to go apple picking with your children each fall before they're all gone-the apples and your children.
Every now and then I'm reminded that my kids won't be children forever. In no time at all they'll be adults, scattering like maple seeds on the wind, with their own compasses to follow. But before they do, I want to make sure we collaborate and create memories together-whether it's figuring out how to bake bread from scratch or learning how to ski.
Whether your family's bucket list includes building houses with Habitat for Humanity, wrangling your family photos into scrapbooks, zip-lining through a jungle in Costa Rica or simply collecting enough board games at yard sales to have regular "family fun nights," how will you make it happen?
At your next family meeting, brainstorm your gang's game plan. Will your dreams come true after a summer of lemonade stands and a year of saving loose change in a mason jar or should you also open a savings account earmarked for your project, with funds directly deposited from your paycheck? My son recently announced that he wishes someday for us to own a rustic camp on a lake somewhere. I can see the rope swing in my mind's eye, but making it a reality might require a major restructuring of our family's financial plan.
This sounds like work, so why bother?
The benefits of consciously creating a bucket list with your family are numerous. Brainstorming and agreeing upon common goals, devising plans and putting them into action inspires children to dream and to problem-solve cooperatively. It teaches them that they "can," which builds confidence and self-esteem. This process also teaches kids how to adjust expectations and live within limits if the limits are truly insurmountable. This shows them there's almost always a plan B-which inspires resilience. Moreover, sharing and working toward a common goal will give your children a sense of your family's purpose, hope and confidence in your shared future and a reason to keep dreaming.
Whether you're the family who bowls or fishes or reads or hikes mountain trails together-and it doesn't matter if you're conquering the Appalachian Trail or just a path around your neighborhood-what matters is that you're doing it together.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.