We may be just as powerless as our children regarding the outlook of the pandemic, but we can control how we respond to it, and we can believe that the key to overall happiness starts at home.
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Around this time last year, everyone was hopeful that 2021 would be the year we'd return to a somewhat normal life. But now, nearly two years into the pandemic, we remain skeptically optimistic about what the future holds.

In many ways, it feels like we are still living in the year 2020. After all, numerous facets of our lives are altered or remain at a standstill. But the world hasn't stopped spinning, and we recognize that the impact of COVID-19 is ever-evolving. This reality is leaving parents everywhere to ask, how will the long-term effects of the pandemic alter my family? And more importantly, what can I do to make sure we are still happy despite navigating unfamiliar territory?

We may not have a crystal ball to paint a pretty picture of the future, but these are some helpful, little ways parents can ensure their families have a happier 2022, regardless of the uncertainty. Let prioritizing these tips be your new year resolution.

1. Look After Yourself First

Before we can look after the joy of our family as an entity, parents must look out for themselves first. These past two years have been a time of change, loss, and mountains of stress. And it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that when parents or caregivers are stressed, so are our kids.

We may need therapy, more time spent alone, or significant opportunities to connect with our inner selves. Jessica Zimmerman, an LMHC and Approved EMDR Consultant who has worked with adolescents and families for 20 years, tells Parents.com that the pandemic is a "global shared trauma" and its effects on mental health are still unfolding.

"Looking forward into 2022, I think parents need to start with themselves," says Zimmerman.

2. Let the Kids Have an Actual Snow Day

When I was younger, my mom and I lived in a house on a small college campus. As the snow piled on, the campus police officers sometimes would section off parts of the inclined main street, so the neighborhood kids had a fun place to sled. And those days defined what it meant to have a childhood snow day in my head.

There's no denying that remote learning is an excellent tool for schools to utilize, but snow day memories should be a shared universal experience for every kid who lives where it snows. So let them take the day off because, truthfully, they've earned it.

3. Make Family Time Meaningful

Put the phones, iPads, and tablets away, blow the dust off your board games, and find ways to spend quality time together as a family intentionally. Maybe that means you carve out some time to sit at the table for dinner a few times a week. Or perhaps you designate one night a week for a family movie. Whatever it is, ensure that you're bringing both your physical and mental presence to the table.

Image of family play fishing in their living room.
Credit: GETTY IMAGES

4. Give Back to Your Community

Studies have shown that giving to others can help boost a person's physical and mental health. Not to mention, there's no better time than now to lend a helping hand, as the needs of those around us are plentiful. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen, donate supplies to schools in the area, purchase flowers for a nursing home, or drop some homemade cookies off on your neighbor's doorstep.

5. Empower Your Kids To Use Their Voices

Even under the most typical circumstances, kids are subject to adults' decisions. Now, the world has taken a radical 180, and it's left children with even less control over their day-to-day lives than they had before.

According to Zimmerman, the magnitude of this tension could lead to an "increase in anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and overall stress on medical and physical well-being." Meaning, we can't afford to let our kids hinder their valid feelings at all.

If we desire a happier family unit in 2022, it's essential that we let our children know that their voices, opinions, and emotions matter just as much as ours. We may be just as powerless as our children regarding the outlook of the pandemic, but we can control how we respond to it, and we can believe that the key to overall happiness starts at home.