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October means shorter days, longer family nights

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

While on a trip to Greece, I made a two-night layover in Rafina, which is the second busiest seaport town in the Athens area. The first night I spent there was a Saturday night, and my hotel was conveniently located about four blocks from the town center (square).

My husband and I decided to walk to the square and enjoy dinner after arriving at 10:30 p.m. Much to our surprise, the town square was alive with children, families playing and parents visiting friends while enjoying cafes. The children were active with playing tag, kicking a soccer ball, talking, best friend girl talk, and both genders played together without an apparent agenda.

It delighted both my husband and me, while at the same time bringing back nostalgic memories of our own childhoods, so different from the childhood most of our children experience today.

The Rafina families were united with food, laughter, and friendship. The children were secure and would run back and forth with their friends and their parents. The parents knew the children who were playing with their kids and talked with them with as much ease as they spoke with their own children.

October is a wonderful month to reunite with family traditions that are going to unite and strengthen your family. The United States is ahead of times with technology and wealth and although we may not be able to replicate the same atmosphere I witnessed in Rafina, we can move back into our families and begin the small rituals that will help our kids feel secure and needed in their family. Below I have 5 tips that you can begin in your own family to help them feel connected and loved by the people who share their name.

1. Start a "popcorn night" and have that night be a time of watching a movie together. Allow each member of the family to vote. The kids will begin looking forward to this ritual, and schedule around it. If parents respect it and make sure they shut off their outside life for this fun filled time it can become a favorite family ritual.

2. Have a suggestion box in your kitchen. Allow kids to contribute suggestions for handling conflict or other matters in your family that need to be discussed. Designate one meal each week to read the suggestions and deal with the family issues that need resolution. This teaches kids that talking works better than acting out.

3. For birthdays begin a tradition where the birthday person gets to pick the recipes they would like for their birthday dinner. Have the whole family contribute toward making the special meal.

4. Have one day to make jack-o-lanterns and let each member of the family carve or paint their own pumpkin. Take photos.

5. Have a pumpkin dinner. This celebrates creativity and family participation. Each person gets to make their favorite pumpkin recipe. If your children are young find appropriate recipes for them. You can make pumpkin hot chocolate, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin salads. This helps children understand family's celebrate seasons, and work together to create joy.

The greatest gift you can give your children is a strong family center. It is their story as they grow, and it will become their memory when they are adults. Have a wonderful October and enjoy this short video of Rafina. Keep it simple, keep it fun!

– Mary Jo Rapini

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJNk2JwXnZc

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