Of course, not every part of life is fun and games. Children need to understand that chores are to be completed and are a necessary part of life. The home could not continue to function harmoniously if no-one ever washed the dishes or put anything away. Nor should it fall on one person in the family to become the principal worker, always striving to create the perfect atmosphere for everyone else, while neglecting their well-being.
Encouraging children to help out with the jobs will allow them to feel part of the running of the household and promote a team atmosphere within the home. Not only will it get jobs done faster (most of the time!), but it lets everyone gain a sense of mutual co-operation and working together. This sense of community is a strong one within Denmark and the Nordic countries in general and it begins within the home environment at an early stage.
Making children help out will encourage a sense of togetherness and that you are all striving for a common goal early in life. It is one that will prove beneficial in many ways as they grow up. Of course, it doesn’t need to be particularly onerous or unpleasant. Washing and drying the dishes together, working in the garden, tidying up toys once used, or putting out the washing can all be made pleasant, communal activities where the conversation is exchanged and moments shared.
Children may initially feel reluctant to get involved, however, if it is made clear this is a fundamental part of the hygge process, that some jobs need to be completed so everyone can then enjoy themselves together, you will see that hesitation rapidly melt away.
Enjoy the moment
Teaching children to be in the moment can be tricky for adults. Various studies have shown that people can spend up to almost half their active days thinking about one thing while doing another. How many times have you eaten a meal which you can barely remember as soon as it is finished? Or had a conversation with someone while your mind is thinking about something else? Or read a page of a book, yet immediately struggle to remember the last sentence?
It has become hard for us to focus on the moment at hand, rather than troubling ourselves about something else. This then takes our focus away from what we are doing when we would be much better off simply concentrating on what our current activity is – even if we find it tedious or unpleasant.
If we can more actively monitor emotions, it makes it easier for us to manage them rather than constantly pushing them aside and ending up with negative thoughts that do little to help. For example, saying If only I didn’t feel so frustrated! all the time, rather than trying to think about and engage with the problem, does little to rectify the situation. When you deliberately focus on what is happening before you, it gives you a chance to come up with solutions. It makes you more resilient and more aware of your surroundings, better equipped to find an answer.
Of course, it is one thing to say and another to do. Everyone’s mind tends to wander off at times, even if we want to be focussed on the present. There are however a few ways you can help children which lets them concentrate more on enjoying and savoring the moment at hand. Think about starting them on mindfulness activities. These can last less than a minute. They are most effective at simply getting them to stop for a minute, become more aware of themselves and where they are, and be just a little more content.
Start by sitting them down in a calm and quiet spot in the house. Ask them to observe the flow of breath in and out of the body. They will inevitably find their minds wandering off again but encourage them to refocus on the movement of the body and breath. Then think about the sensations the body can feel. It might be feet within socks on a carpet. Or a back against wooden chair. If lying down, perhaps the head against a soft pillow. Continue to focus on the sense of touch just for a minute a day.
Encourage your children simply to stop at least once a day and observe what is happening in both their minds and body. They will quickly become more familiar with themselves and more aware of the surroundings around them. Children tend to enjoy the practices greatly and it will give them a chance to sit quietly and think about where and who they are in the home, community, and world.
Be positive and adventurous
Encourage children to try new things. See that they get as widely involved as possible in several different activities, sporting or otherwise. This will serve to broaden their horizons, feel confident about themselves and to meet new people, and make new friends. It also gives them additional chances to succeed in some different spheres. Sharing these successes with family and friends over dinner is a great way to make them feel more confident and positive about themselves.
Set small goals for your children. These should be enough to stretch them without being completely unattainable. It might be as simple as walking to school more often, cycling a further distance than they did last week, or perhaps aiming to help others in the community with simple tasks once a week. Have them write down the task in a journal and tell others so they can remain committed and involved in their aims. Encourage them to think of ways they can reach their goals as well as anything they might need to do to overcome obstacles in their way.
This encourages thinking ahead and planning as well as making them more resilient when they encounter problems. When the goal has been reached, this will again promote a sense of achievement and allows them to share yet further triumphs with you and others. Once done, they can add how they completed their target, how they overcame difficulties, and how reaching that goal made them happier. Looking back over this journal later will serve to reinforce positive feelings and make them feel good about themselves.
Another way to reinforce these feelings is through positive affirmations. This allows children to build up strong, internal, positive beliefs and will aid with their self-esteem. You can discuss which affirmations you think your child would like with them and make your own as well. Affirmations you could think about as a starting point might be:
- I am loved
- I am kind
- I am brave
- I am clever
- I help others
- I am unique
- I am caring
- I am honest
- I am happy
- I am loving
- I believe in myself
Have your child say their favorite affirmations at least three times out loud once a day. You can do this activity with them as a joint exercise. It has great benefits for adults too. If your child would prefer doing this alone, then it is best not to push doing it together, however.
You can leave these affirmations around the home at various points so they are seen by your children throughout the day. A bedroom is an obvious point where they will have an impact both at night and in the morning. They work well throughout the house however where they can be glimpsed and have a little positive effect when it might most be needed.
Discuss without argument or criticism
The right conversation is important for creating a true hygge experience in your home with your children. Discussion is a key part of any hygge family. Any meal you attend in Denmark will be accompanied by plenty of talk and laughter. Ensure that the dinner table is a chance to develop positive thoughts, a location where confidence can be enhanced and the seemingly constant flow of negativity that we are fed every day in the modern world is banished.
A true hygge environment is one that encourages positivity at all times. It allows everyone to support each other while negative comments, complaints, or unnecessary and hurtful criticisms are actively discouraged. Hygge is about being yourself, feeling safe, and enjoying the company of friends and family who support you. It allows you to let your guard down and relax within a comfortable environment and you must encourage your children to play their part in the creation of the right atmosphere where that is possible.
Avoid talking about politics, horrible bosses at work, colleagues’ marital issues, or other highly contentious issues that will not only potentially cause great division but also be above the heads of many children. There is nothing that will turn them off wanting to get involved more than listening to adults drone on about topics to which they do not yet feel able to relate. Arguments and conflict will destroy the sense of hygge you have managed to create. It can be wise to avoid topics that will inflame people or are by their very nature, bound to introduce conflict into proceedings.
Of course, it’s important to expose children to more mature ideas as they grow older but arguing about the minutiae of current political developments will likely make them feel ostracised and unwelcome. Witnessing adults fight it out with verbal jousting will leave them unhappy and wanting to escape to their rooms, far away from the family environment. Do your best to steer the conversation to topics that are unlikely to rouse passions and controversy. If things do descend into the debate, then remain patient, take a deep breath, and ask everyone to lower the volume and calm down. Initiate a change in topic and promise to return to the current issue later once everyone is calmer.
Stop people boasting about their achievements and diminishing the efforts or performance of others. This will only inhibit people from speaking at all and allow more dominant personalities to take attention, drowning out everyone else. Encourage even the quietest to take part, perhaps going around in a circle at first so everyone can speak.
Allow everyone to be heard equally and encourage listening as much as talking. This can be hard for some, especially for the more extroverted who can come to unwittingly dominate conversations, but it is important that everyone feels their voice is heard. When others pay interest to what you are saying, it bestows confidence within the speaker. Showing any kind of interest in what others are talking about is crucial for a conversation, both for the speaker and the listener.
Encourage children to ask questions and ask them yourself. Questions that are more open-ended lead to a deeper and more meaningful conversation. Questions can be reframed to encourage an ongoing conversation. Did you have a good day at school? for example, invites a yes or no answer. Asking What were the top three things that happened to you today? is more open and facilitates further conversation.
Hurtful or snide comments, intentionally or otherwise, will also have the same devastating effect on the atmosphere. Children can be susceptible to this at times. Constant sniping and teasing are wearying and tedious for adults. It will also normally result in at least one of the children getting upset and leaving. Ask your children to think of themselves as part of a team where everyone has to play their part in a lovely meal with the guests.
Give them key roles to perform to ensure they feel they are important. Encourage them to think carefully about their utterances and the impact they have on others and themselves. This will go a long way to ensuring the right atmosphere is present for discussion time, over the dinner table or otherwise, with friends and family.