Often, we want to make our lives more complicated than they have to be, especially when it comes to our relationships. But the truth is, maintaining healthy and loving relationships is extremely simple. We want to know that we are loved and appreciated by the people we love and appreciate. When it comes to connecting to our families, a lot of the time we fall victim to the idea that to create special memories we have to go all out and take a trip to Disney World or throw a huge party, but in reality the true value of family time comes in the simple moments of joy that comes from old-fashioned family time. The secret to loving and meaningful relationships is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Putting in the time and effort to plan experiences together can pay huge dividends in the happiness and fullness we feel in our connections with each other.
1) Cooking family meals together
Busy schedules of both parents and children make it harder to have “family dinners.” But families may not be aware of the benefits that come with regularly eating together at the table. Research suggests that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development. Family dinners have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders, and an increased chance of graduating from high school.
Conversation – Eating dinner together as a family provides the opportunity for conversation. This lets parents teach healthy communication without distractions from phones, television, computers, and mobile devices. By engaging your children in conversation, you teach them how to listen and provide them with a chance to express their own opinions. This allows your children to have an active voice within the family.
Conversations at the dinner table expand the vocabulary and reading ability of children, regardless of socioeconomic status. Family dinners allow every family member to discuss his or her day and share any exciting news.
Developmental Benefits – The sense of security and togetherness provided by family meals helps nurture children into healthy, well-rounded adults. Frequent family dinners have a positive impact on children’s values, motivation, personal identity, and self-esteem.
Children who eat dinner with their family are more likely to understand, acknowledge, and follow the boundaries and expectations set by their parents. A decrease in high-risk behaviors is related to the amount of time spent with family—especially during family dinners.
To make the most of your family mealtime, follow these guidelines:
Nutritional Benefits – Eating dinner together as a family also encourages healthy eating habits and provides a model for children to carry with them into adulthood. Studies show family dinners increase the intake of fruits and vegetables; families who eat dinner together tend to eat fewer fried foods and drink less soda; and family meal frequency is linked to the intake of protein, calcium, and some vitamins.
Nightly family dinners may require effort in planning, but the benefits in mental and physical health to you and your family are more than worth it.
2) Family interviews
Have the kids interview their relatives, complete with script and camera. Then turn the camera around and film the kids as they are interviewed. Not only is this a really fun way for kids to learn more about their family history, and the stories of older generations, but the kids are also learning important communication skills and gain a sense of pride in their heritage.
3) Family book club
Same principle as any other book club, except you do it as a family! This makes reading social and engaging, and sets the tone for a lifelong passion for reading. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to spend time together, bond, and talk about interesting and engaging topics together. First, pick a book. Make sure to take turns picking a book (unless your family has children who are too little to pick.) Keep in mind that you’ll want to have multiple copies of the book. Next, set the schedule. Decide when your family book club will meet. If your selected book is a chapter book, give everybody enough time to read and finish the book. For children who are beginning readers, adults or older siblings can read the book aloud to them. Next, you’ll want to prepare for the meeting. Make sure you bring food, discussion questions, and of course, your book! You can even have decorations to match. For babies and toddlers, read the books together and talk about the stories. For older kids, think of discussion questions that talk about themes possibly pertaining to what each of your kids may be going through. Look at it as a chance to talk about things that you might not know how to talk about otherwise. Most of all, have fun.
4) Create family art
Being creative as a family gives each member the opportunity to express their individuality while at the same time adding to a project that is created by the family as a whole. It gives kids permission to be themselves, and promotes brain development and family bonds. Whether it’s painting, creating family banners, writing songs, making up plays, or anything else you can think of, the process of creating together brings everybody closer.
5) Connect with the world around you, explore together
Exploring the world around you as a family is one of the best ways to inject excitement and fun into your family relationships. Whether it means spending time in nature, exploring a new city, or going somewhere you have never been in your own city, going somewhere new and having those experiences together can help both parents and kids feel like they are more connected to each other.