Work, school, and personal life can easily get in the way of focusing on special time with loved ones. But really, how often do you spend quality time in the same room with your whole family? How much of that time is spent doing an activity together?
With intention, you can start allowing more space for family bonding to occur. Making the choice to create bonding rituals with your family members can help strengthen family relationships, emotional health, and family resiliency. Your family could reap the benefits of enhancing connection through communication and openness.
Importance of family bonding
As much as we want to prioritize family time and bonding time, more often than not does it fall to the wayside when work, school, and personal problems start to overwhelm us. However, it is easy to forget that the benefits of family bonding can positively impact areas of our lives that are less overt.
On the individual level, folks who display a positive family relationship are more likely to cope better with stress and engage in healthier behaviors. Research on adolescents shows that those with positive family dynamics are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, less likely have a mental health diagnosis, and more likely to have higher levels of self-esteem. Children and teens with a strong family bond have fewer problem behaviors and increased resiliency. Over time, the ability to present high levels of resiliency will prove helpful when facing challenges in school, work, and relationships down the line.
In more way than one, bonding serves as a protective factor for children and teenagers.
When family members make space for family bonding, there is an increased sense of self and understanding of one’s own identity. Interacting with family in a positive way allows for children and teens to understand their place in the world and how they relate to others. Increased sense of self will pave the way for heightened levels of confidence, which will make decision making and problem solving much simpler for your child down the road.
1. Plan quality time
Consider quality vs. quantity – just because you have a lot of something does not mean that it is of high value. To work on your family bond, try searching for hobbies and activities that each family member can enjoy together. When the entire family is enjoying themselves, there is less room for negativity or conflict, and more room to express love and compassion.
Getting out of the house is always a great idea, but occasionally plans are impacted by weather and temperature. When you are looking for hobbies that everyone can enjoy, it is helpful to consider activities that are indoor and outdoor. Your kids will thank you for having a back up when their outdoor plans get rained out.
When you get some activities scheduled, hang a calendar in a common space in your home. Your kids will be able to look to the week ahead and anticipate these activities before they occur. This will help to not only build excitement, but facilitate planning and problem solving for what’s to come. Rituals and traditions are good ways to strengthen family bonds. A few ideas of rituals include Sunday afternoon visits to the movie theater, making Wednesday nights pizza night, or reading books together before bedtime. Some other ways to strengthen family relationships include scheduling family dinners, planning game night, and finding fun ways to complete chores together.
2. Prioritize family dinners
Dinners are an easy part of the day in which family members can give each other their full attention and engage in important or fun discussions. Kids who eat dinner with their families on a daily basis are more likely to experience better family relationships, improved academic performance, heightened self esteem, and greater resiliency. Further, research shows that teens who eat with their families regularly report lower levels of depression, and lower levels of risk-seeking behaviors.
There is a lot of coordination that goes into a family meal: prepping the food, cooking the food, setting the table, and getting the dishes cleaned. Find ways to involve your family members in the cooking and preparation. Little ones can help set the table, wash the produce, and stir ingredients. Older kids and teens can help with washing dishes, chopping ingredients, and preheating the oven. Some of these tasks may seem overwhelming, but these short term goals will lead to long term success in the family system.
Having a designated dinner time with the family can facilitate an opportunity to try new foods together. Setting this expectation will allow for less resistance from your picky eaters over time. When you get in the habit of eating family meals together, you can start to develop menus together and strategize with your picky eaters. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the meal is or what time of day you are sitting down to eat with your family; what matters most is that you are together and utilizing the opportunity to communicate
3. Organize game night
Gaming is a great activity for strengthening family connection and creating lasting memories. We all know that games are fun, but there is more to gaming that meets the eye. Incorporating family game night into your week can increase family satisfaction and promote family bonding. Playing video games together as a family, surprisingly to some, is also helpful in promoting family closeness.
Children can pick up helpful skills from board games and other activities, such as improved motor skills, problem solving, and communication skills. As children work with (and against) other family members, they are refining their collaboration skills and goal-seeking behaviors. Games are a wonderful opportunity to learn what it means to win and to lose, which will also provide great benefits outside of the family network. One of the most important things your family can do while gaming is to debrief afterward: exploring what your family learned, what they would do differently next time, and what challenges they faced while participating in the game.
4. Make chores a family activity
Though chores are rarely fun, there are some strategies that parents can take to make the process more cohesive with family life. Consider what could make chores better, and how you can incorporate your child’s interests during chore time. Start by scheduling times for the family to complete chores together; kids are more likely to participate in an activity when they know that their parents and siblings are also involved.
Some parents integrate themes or pretend play into chore time, whereas other parents find a way to playfully compete or race against time. Occasionally, kids express distaste with completing the same chores week after week. One way to get around this is by drawing chores from a jar or hat when cleaning day comes around.
5. Make room for alone time
Regardless of how well your family takes to bonding activities, it is still important to take time for yourself. Parents easily get caught up in their kid’s lives and vice versa, which is natural when you spend quality family time together. It is challenging to bring your best self every time you spend time with your family, but engaging in your own self-care rituals makes this much easier. Scheduling activities for yourself, whether it is an activity you can enjoy alone or a special date night without the kids. The same goes for the other members of your family! Alone time and self care gives us all space to learn more about ourselves and decompress when we’re feeling irritable.
6. Get exposure to other families
By interacting with other families, parents can learn how other family bonds look and how other families tackle problems together. When you talk to your friends and their families about parenting, you are collaborating as a community and working toward a greater purpose. Ask other families about their story: what they like to do for fun, how they overcome obstacles, and how they create their own memories.
Parents may feel intimidated by letting other parents and families into their life. These parents may fear criticism or not being seen as a “good enough” parent. By letting those worries go, you can start to open your mind to new approaches. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable with others can help develop more awareness over what is working for your family vs. what isn’t working.
7. Make sure all family members are heard
Family bonds are strengthened when communication is strong and resilient. Kids grow and expectations change over time, so some of the activities you may do with your family now might not stick down the road. Push back might mean that someone’s needs are not being met or that there are different ideas of what family time could look like. Regular check-ins and family meetings are good strategies for creating open communication within the family network.
Commit to listening wholeheartedly. You can practice active listening by engaging in eye contact and open body language. Your child, teen, and other family members will know that you are listening when you respond and reflect on some of the things they share with you. Active listening is a great way to show that you support your loved ones and create a shared life together, and a great way to foster healthy relationships.