1. Slow down and simplify.
There is something inherently simple about life in France. It’s taken me a long time to figure it out, but it comes down to this: The French truly appreciate the small things in life. An afternoon walk, a small piece of delicious chocolate, a perfect apple, playing a board game with the family. Appreciating what is simple means not pursuing “more” and “better” and it keeps you focused on things that truly matter, which are usually not actually “things”, but people and experiences.
2. Travel with your children.
No matter what their budget, French people take the time to travel with their families. It can be as simple as a short drive to the next village for a themed festival, or a longer trip to a neighboring European capital to discover new sights, tastes, and sounds. With the numerous school holidays throughout the year (8 weeks off even before summer vacation begins!), there is ample opportunity to travel and expand a child’s horizons. There’s no time like the present to plan an escapade. Even if you don’t have vacation time, take off to explore nearby neighborhoods on a Saturday afternoon. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the unknown treasures in your neck of the woods!
3. Spend more time in nature.
Whether the French live in the hustle and bustle of Paris or Lyon, or whether they live in the countryside, they all make time on the weekends to hang out together in nature. Paris alone has huge parks on either end of the city that are packed with families breathing in fresher air, appreciating the flowers and long stretches of grass, and just playing and moving together. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can find your own little piece of nature and reconnect with it and your family.
4. Eat every evening meal together as a family.
Your regular family time can include the evening meal, even during a busy week. Even when jobs and after-school activities are on the cards, make the effort to get everyone around the dinner table for a homemade meal and the chance to connect with one another. It’s usually just a matter of preparing in advance and good organization. Your kids and partner will appreciate this daily ritual and you’ll be teaching your children the value of what is truly important in life.
5. Unplug regularly.
Sure the French are logged on like the rest of the world. But you would be hard-pressed to find a family at the dinner table, or a restaurant texting away on their blackberries. Setting boundaries for when it’s appropriate to be plugged in and when it isn’t is a great way to keep your family time precious, and keep everyone connected with one another, not just with devices.
6. Hang out together in the kitchen.
There is no doubt that the French love great food. One of food’s greatest pull is the opportunity to share it with friends and family. Food joins people together–whether you are cooking it, setting the table, strolling through the farmer’s market together, or eating a simple meal with friends and extended family. Get in the habit of making food a positive focus of family life by getting kids involved in the kitchen–whether it’s hanging out prepping veggies, or testing mom’s latest spaghetti sauce. It’s a positive way to nourish the soul while nourishing the body. And it definitely counts as quality family time!
7. Mark family time down in your calendar.
Make your time spent with family meaningful and regular, not just whenever you can fit it in. Schedule it if you have to; block out weekly family time on your calendar now. It can be every Sunday afternoon, for example. But be regular and consistent and it will become a time of sharing, of reconnecting during a busy week and of enjoying each other.