Every family has commitments to meet, making time with loved ones a bit hit-and-miss. Once the day is done, it’s easy to plop down in front of the television or disappear behind closed doors into separate spaces.
But the days and years fly by, so it’s important to make the most of family gatherings when we can. Consistent, quality time spent together benefits everyone. It strengthens bonds and creates lasting memories that develop and sustain strong foundations for the family.
Setting aside a specific day for family activities is a crucial first step. Granted, it’s not always easy to coordinate schedules and get family members on board, especially tweens and teens who may prefer being with friends.
Be persistent. There’s no rule against a bit of enticement to get things on track, either, such as allowing everyone the opportunity to choose an activity to do together. It may take some give-and-take to get everyone on board, but it’s worth it.
Research shows that children who routinely eat meals with their families are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits and improved social skills. No matter what age we are, sitting down together at the end of a busy day is a stress reliever. It provides the opportunity to share day-to-day experiences and get feedback and support from those we love.
Sharing food at a table also encourages sensible eating habits that lead to healthier lifestyles.
Household cleaning chores may not sound like an optimal choice for togetherness, but they can be. Setting up a regular cleaning or yard workday can become a welcome release from digital screens, work, and day-to-day routines.
Best of all, this option provides an excellent opportunity to touch base with one another. Everyone pitches in. Turn on some music in the background, set up competitions, and reward yourselves after completing tasks. Even young children can get involved, folding laundry, putting away toys, and picking up debris in the yard.
Families often find themselves stuck in an endless maze of things they have on their calendars, from work and school commitments to doctors’ appointments, social obligations, household chores, and more. Slowing down and checking in with each other is beneficial, both physically and mentally.
Choose a relaxing spot, put down your digital devices, turn off the television, and focus on the conversation. You may learn something about each other you didn’t know.
Getting your hands dirty can be surprisingly therapeutic and relaxing, releasing serotonin and dopamine, the human “happy hormones.” It connects us with other living things and enhances our nurturing side.
A family garden becomes a group project and a learning environment. From choosing the location, to deciding whether to plant flowers or veggies, each member gets a say and has a specific job to do to keep things growing. Include a task for documenting and photographing the garden through its stages for a family album or scrapbook.
With the recent emphasis on building family trees and finding DNA relatives, documenting your family’s history can be an enjoyable and fulfilling way to learn about your clan. Capture family stories on video using a phone or other recording device.
Ask older family members about their experiences growing up during iconic or challenging periods in history, and learn what younger generations feel about the world they’re growing up in. Once you’ve collected the interviews, compile them in a digital file, slideshow, or book to share.
Most people consider Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Fourth of July, and other major holidays to be family celebrations. But unfortunately, we get so wrapped up in preparations that, in reality, family time diminishes during major holidays.
Try creating a unique, yearly holiday to celebrate your family, complete with its own one-of-a-kind name. Keep things simple and fun. Create new traditions to celebrate the day, such as an unusual or quirky outing, a delicious meal, or a photoshoot to document the event.
Not everyone can sit down and paint a masterpiece, but that isn’t the significance or purpose of art. Letting your creative juices flow lowers stress hormones and releases endorphins, and multiple studies prove it. When families create art together, they’re developing lasting memories as well as discovering new abilities and learning to express themselves creatively.
Paint a mural on the wall of a playroom, create a digital album of family artwork and photos, or plan outings to galleries or museums to get ideas for new projects to do together.
Think back to your childhood. Chances are, you have memories involving certain foods or meals that you remember fondly. Cooking together strengthens family traditions, provides lessons in self-sufficiency for youngsters, creates opportunities for trying new foods together, and opens the door for meaningful conversations.
Approach cooking as an experience in teamwork and bonding when possible, with everyone taking on specific tasks and working together to create a delicious family meal.
Expressions of affection and appreciation between family members are often left unsaid. By tuning in to each individual’s needs, we learn what it is that makes them feel secure and loved.
Sometimes it’s nothing more than a quick hug or an arm around the shoulder. It may be the need to be heard and accepted by those closest to them. During family activities, it’s important to ensure that everyone feels not only included but also appreciated for their uniqueness and talent.