I was surprised when I looked up how long we’ve been celebrating Family Day in Ontario. I was expecting it had been eight or 10 years.
But it’s been 15 years since the province made the third Monday of February a statutory holiday to spend time with our families.
Intentionally dedicating a day that recognizes the importance of family – the family we are born into, the family we are raised by, the family we are raising, and the family we choose – is so important.
Research shows that spending time with family and friends is strongly beneficial to mental health. Regardless of how you define family, it can help us feel understood and that we belong and increases our bonds to others.
These bonds can result in reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression, which are so widely prevalent these days. Carving out quality time with those we love makes us happier people. Our friends and family, and even pets can be healthy outlets for stress, provide emotional support, and increase our sense of self-worth.
As I reflect on Family Day and the challenges that many families are facing today, I think about the ways I spend time with my family and my two daughters – creating memories and sharing experiences. That can be cooking a meal together and playing board games – there are so many activities to consider.
Taking a hike in the woods or a park, or playing ball out in the yard.
Spending time on video calls with faraway loved ones.
Or getting into PJs and watching a movie together after making a batch of popcorn.
I hope, too, that as we all think about Family Day, we consider the family next door or across town that is struggling to make ends meet in these times of economic pressures.
For families with lower incomes – those earning minimum wage, those on social assistance, single-parent families, seniors, those with disabilities – the pinch may mean not being able to make rent. Or an empty fridge.
So what does that mean?
If parents have to work another job or more hours to make ends meet, that affects children. If parents are stressed about money, that affects children. If there isn’t enough food at home, kids go to school hungry. If a senior lives with mobility challenges, they may go days, and sometimes weeks without speaking to anyone.
How can you help?
Family Day is about celebrating the love we get, and the love we give, to those close to us. But it’s also about giving a helping hand in our community and creating a brighter tomorrow for other families. Together, this is what we all work hard to achieve.
On behalf of everyone here at United Way Halton & Hamilton, happy Family Day. I hope you can spend it with those you love, doing what you love.