the latest

How to Keep Connecting With Your Family as We Return to Normal

The past year has had a whiplash effect on many people, and especially those of us with full, busy households. In 2020, we were thrust into a new world abruptly — one that challenged our everyday habits and to a certain extent, the very core of our family dynamics. At last, though, the pressure cooker has been released (somewhat). Yet we’re still struggling with the newness of a changing world.

To be sure, there’s a major sentiment of “back to normal” in the air. However, “normal” has been redefined. And many of us are still worried about the pandemic — from vaccinations and mutating virus strains to what to expect in the fall, winter, next year, and beyond.

Still, it’s clear that we’re on the way out of a global crisis. Knowing that, I’ve come to realize that despite all the hardships and stressors of the past year, I want to retain the good parts. Chief among those is spending more time with my wife and kids.

In fact, one of my family’s goals is to find ways to continue interacting with the people we care about most. To that end, here are some recommendations if you want to keep the good parts from the past year in your life, too:

1. Make up for lost time.
Most of us had to put regular life on hold for months, so it’s time to recover some of the joy you couldn’t experience during the height of the pandemic. My family and I love going to the Six Flags Great America amusement park in Illinois. Like most recreational facilities, it shut down during the pandemic. But now, it’s open for business.

My family and I have already visited four times, and we plan on going several more times over the warmer months. Although this doesn’t completely make up for the visits we missed in the last year, the wait made that first trip much sweeter. If you had to bypass a favorite activity in 2020 like my family did, now’s the time to make it a priority.

2. Stay connected with your kids.
Every parent knows that children grow up much too fast. Even if it was a major headache at times to balance online learning and working from your residential office space, it was probably nice knowing where your kids were and spending precious time with them during the day. I know it was for me. At the same time, your kids probably got a kick out of the togetherness as well — even if they wouldn’t admit it.

Don’t stop looking for opportunities for quality time with your kids just because you can safely leave your home. Rather, find new ways to be around them. My daughter didn’t get the chance to play softball last year. This spring, she rejoined the team. Guess who her coach is? I’m proud to play the role that allows me to mentor her and her friends, as well as watch her explore her athletic gifts.

3. Get a little extravagant.
My kids love Walt Disney World in Florida and have been looking forward to going back now that the park is open and we’ve been vaccinated. In addition to everything else going on this summer — such as cheering on the White Sox in person — we’re taking our whole brood down there as a way to celebrate making it through 2020.

Maybe you normally only make one trip in the summer months. Make 2021 the time to do two, or maybe three. They don’t have to be weeklong vacations. Instead, you can have staycations in your own city. Now is a good moment to toss out traditions your family has outgrown and begin to rethink what making memories looks like in this new normal.

Currently, my home state of Illinois is completely open, and my family is fortunate enough to be fully vaccinated. I’m taking this moment to focus on what was important during the pandemic: spending time with my loved ones. I encourage you to do the same. It’s time to reclaim moments of joy as the pandemic moves farther away in the rearview mirror.