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Make a family bucket list of things to do together

Carpe diem!

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Parents know that children make days long and years short, so there's no time like the present to embrace your little ones and make the most of the time you have together before your kids leave the nest.

A personal bucket list is a compilation of all the things you want to do before you "kick the bucket." You can cultivate a family bucket list of all the things you want to experience together before your children move into adulthood.

1. Dream together

One of the worst things about adulthood is the growth of the judgment zone of the brain. While having good judgment can prevent painful mistakes, it can also stamp out creativity. Adults tend to squelch dreams by saying, "We could never do that," or, "It costs too much money, and I don't have any more time off." But a hallmark of a thriving family is its ability to engage in dreams and hopes together. Even if you don't make an official appointment to dream together, try to value your children's and spouse's dreams of all that is possible in your family, and encourage them to share those ideas. Never mind that you don't know how to pay for a trip to Bora Bora. Dream big.

2. Value all ideas

In Edward de Bono's book Six Thinking Hats, the renowned consultant shares his proven techniques for helping corporations think outside the box to solve complex problems. One of the main points of the book is to establish very clearly that there is no such thing as a bad idea. de Bono encourages groups of people to put on their creative thinking hats and share ideas freely. The same idea can work as you create a family bucket list. No one is allowed to laugh at your 4-year-old for saying she wants to take a trip to the moon together. Even if you eventually decide a trip to the moon is out of your budget, you might come up with a fun trip to Cape Canaveral or NASA in Houston instead.

3. Write it down

Studies show that people who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them than people who have nebulous ideas about what they want to do in the future. Instead of just talking about what you want to do as a family, write your bucket list together, on paper, to increase your chances of actually achieving your desires.

4. Set goals

If you want to get even more specific (but make sure it won't jeopardize your sanity), set SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. This means that instead of saying, "We want to go on vacation before Sam goes to college" (which is kind of a sad goal anyway), rephrase your goal as, "We want to vacation in San Diego by August, and we will do so by setting aside $100 per paycheck between now and July."

We could provide you with all kinds of ideas to get your list going, but really, your family bucket list needs to be original to your family. Some questions to start your thinking:

  • What have I always wanted to do but told myself was impossible?
  • Where would I like to be as a person in five years?
  • What values do I want my children to hold dear by the time they leave the house?
  • Which experiences are most likely to instill these values in my children?
  • What did my spouse and I dream about before we had children?
  • What is my idea of the perfect fun day, and how can we make that kind of day happen?

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