If a separation or divorce is new to you, you may not feel like going out or doing fun things as a family because you’re dealing with a tragedy. But I found that planning fun things to do with the kids helped them get through those first few months and years following the divorce. That’s because I gave them things to look forward to every time I had them. They sometimes dreaded school, so I always talked about what we’d do that week and weekend to give them some hope in a dark time in their lives.
If you’re not feeling up to doing big things, focus on the simple things. Even simple things can bring great joy to your kids and to you. For example, I focused on our family dinners. I made sure to make things the kids would enjoy like homemade macaroni and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs. On Wednesday evenings, we’d go to Dairy Queen for ice cream. We’d always sit at a booth and talk about what was really going on in our lives. The deep conversations at Dairy Queen have now become quite the tradition for me and the boys. Sometimes we’d go to a coffee shop for hot chocolate and cookies and then walk around the downtown shops. Sometimes it was just a trip to the library for some new books to read. Also, I read a novel to the boys after dinner. We play games together or walk to the park. These things don’t take much time or energy and they help make the week fun.
I usually try to plan a fun outing to do with the boys on the weekends. Of course, now it’s harder to find things to do because nothing is open, but when life gets back to normal, we’ll be excited to try these things again. I have an indoor adventure park in my town where the kids can play laser tag or go rock climbing. We’ve gone to trampoline parks before or seen a movie in the theater. We’ve gone to the zoo, a museum, the water park, mini golf, bike rides with picnics, or visited botanical gardens. We go sledding during the winter and hike in the summer. We paint using our art set. Sometimes these activities cost a little more, so be on the lookout for coupons through mailing lists or groupon. And get involved with the activities yourself. Make it a time when you and your kids can form some deep bonds as a new, smaller family.
Every once in a while, you can plan a weekend getaway or a vacation for the kids. Ask them what they’ve always wanted to do. I took my kids to Wisconsin Dells to an indoor water park one weekend. We stayed in a resort overnight and ate breakfast at a diner the next morning. I planned a big vacation to Charleston with the boys this past summer. We took a carriage ride through the historic district, visited a plantation, and toured Fort Sumter. We went to the beach every day. We also do family vacations with all the cousins during the summer. The boys get to swim, fish, and play tennis.
Holidays can be challenging as a new family. It takes time to establish new normals. But every year, the boys and I go to the apple orchard in the fall and make apple pies together afterward. We go to the Piggly Wiggly pumpkin fest to pick out $2 pumpkins and apple cider donuts. We cut down our own Christmas Tree. We drive around looking at Halloween decorations or Christmas lights. We have Grinch night where we make Grinch cookies (https://www.iheartnaptime.net/grinch-cookies/), watch the Grinch movie, and read the Grinch book. We hunt for Easter eggs in the backyard. We have a scavenger hunt for Valentine’s Day and eat a heart shaped pizza from Papa Murphy’s. We take our bikes to the fireworks and light sparklers. All of these things help us bond as a new family and give us things to look forward to.
Even though I see my boys half the time I did when I was married, I find that I have so much more quality time with them now than I did before. I take advantage of all the time I have with the boys and plan these fun things to do together. We have made so many memories together and when I look back on the last three years, I can truly say that there was joy amidst the darkness. And I have countless photos to prove it! Stay tuned for another upcoming blog that will list 25 fun outings I do pretty regularly with my kids.