I remember when my daughter was still a young girl and October marked the beginning of “FUN”, and I found myself exhausted just thinking about Halloween, Halloween Parties, Holiday School Events, Thanksgiving, and the Celebrations that followed. My feeling overwhelmed at the big events sometimes obscured my ability to see what small things we could do as a family that were still as magical and fun.
To be an effective parent and have a close family, you need to spend quality family time together. This sounds simple enough, but it can get quite difficult when you’re working full-time and your kids have sports, music/dance lessons, and their own friends to work around. Even though it can be tough to schedule, it’s important for your family to find time to spend together regularly. Finances may also play a part in doing things as a family, but even though times may be tough, you can keep having fun together. Remember, having fun together is more relevant than ever during difficult times. Enjoying your time together will help lift everyone’s spirits and, just as important, create happy memories. You might have to get creative with your attempts to spend time together as a family, and it could be challenging, but you’ll find that your family will be closer because of it.
Setting the Tone
Set aside a specific time to get together. It is important that you are all committed to spending time together at the same place and at the same time, just enjoying each other. Start with 30 minutes and then add on as the family becomes more engaged. Make the “date” as a family, taking into consideration schedules, and teaching/modeling compromise in the process. We are all busy!
Disable your phones and electronic devices. It is important that family time be uninterrupted by email, video games or social media. In a short time we have all become accustomed to “needing” to be in touch with everyone/everything every minute of the day! Not necessary, how many of you remember the times before smart phones or internet? We seemed to survive and be just fine. Modeling and practicing face-to-face interactions with true attention to the task/conversation at hand is an important life and social skill.
Ideas for Family Time
Learning to work in a team! We want our children to learn how to work with others, it is important to learn cooperation/compromise as well as empathy for others’ experiences. Some ideas to try:
- Plan a meal together and then divide the tasks to get it done [research recipes, shopping, assign dishes to prep, etc.]. The final product is a team effort everyone can be proud of.
- Develop an “idea jar” for things to do as a family, noting that everyone’s idea has merit and needs to take in account others’ abilities, interests, and aptitudes. Each member of the family gets 3-5 slips of paper to write down their ideas then all are folded and placed in a jar; at family time an idea is picked out. You might want to consider putting “outdoors” and “indoors” ideas in separate jars, as well as “no-cost” and “cost” activities.
- If the family takes a regular vacation, use one of the family time dates to brainstorm vacation ideas. Like in meal prep activities, you can assign tasks to research the ideas and then have a “report back” time to share. Encourage listening and getting excited about the fun things you can do on vacation!
Instilling altruism and philanthropy! Often times our children are more receptive to helping others in need that we might expect.
- Research together different non-profits in your area and choosing one to “adopt”. The commitment in adoption could be donations, volunteering or participating in fundraisers [Walk/Runs are now easily accessible for children].
- If you participate in a regular faith community often times over religious holidays there may be a call to “adopt a family” or volunteer in a soup kitchen; consider doing one of these as a family.
- Talking about current events with children might also lend itself to finding altruistic opportunities. In the wake of a natural disaster [fire, earthquakes, floods, etc.] talk about relief efforts and determine how you may want to help.
Just have fun! It is hilarious to watch children’s faces when the “kid” in their parents surfaces. So let’s talk about “fun” family night opportunities too!
- Board games are an age old classic and can lead to a raucous time with children, especially if it is a noisy game! Pictionary and charades are two that come to mind; teach them that having fun trumps winning!
- Decorating contests on a particular theme [carving pumpkins, gingerbread houses, egg dying, etc.] can be a great family event. Getting messy and having fun is almost always a recipe for fun!
- Movie nights that end up with a family sleepover on the living room floor are easy and promote closeness and intimacy that we sometimes lose behind the closed doors of our bedrooms.
- Camping out in your backyard is perfect for the warm spring/summer evenings. Practice stargazing, telling spooky stories, making s’mores on the barbecue, and just noticing the quiet noises of the evening.
- Create an obstacle course and see how fast each member of your family can hop from pillow to pillow, toss three beans into a plastic cup, and then sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
- Have your own science fair and conduct experiments of “what would happen if….”Examples of experiments might be: making cornstarch goo [water + cornstarch] and seeing how solids and liquids shift; testing what sinks/floats in the bathtub; exploring how weight might affect something falling. Ideas can be found on, http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/experiments.html that will keep everyone entertained!
Building a healthy and loving family unit should be an enjoyable process, so take some time and just have fun!