When I think of holidays with my family growing up, I remember all of us together. In fact, many of my memories of my family growing up involve lots of “together” time, even though my dad worked ridiculously long hours during my earliest years. When I compare that to my own family nowadays, it sometimes seems as if we’re all running in ten different directions at once. This, despite the fact that we try to prioritize dinner together as a family, despite the fact that I’ve worked hard to limit the girls’ after-school activities so that we CAN be together as a family.
Do you ever feel this way?
How often does it seem that even if you’re all home together, you’re each off in your own little world? During the rare weeknight moments that you’re all there together, one grownup is cooking dinner while the other’s doing laundry, and the kids are off in their own spaces, playing video games or doing homework or doing music practice. Even when you do sit down to dinner together, it has to shoehorn in around meetings and practices and evening activities.
Want to change this dynamic in the new year, and work toward a stronger sense of family togetherness and more quality time with each other? Well, here’s a list of some straightforward ways to bring your family closer together.
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Straightforward Ways To Bring Your Family Closer Together
1. Stay healthy together.
It can be hard to know as a parent what things are most important for raising happy, healthy kids. But there’s no question that healthy habits start at home, and raising your kids into a healthy lifestyle is in their best interest. So prioritizing healthy habits together is an important way that you can bring your family closer together on lots of levels.
Getting active together as a family is one way to start. My husband and I both love cycling, so as soon as the girls reached age 1, they each got their own bike helmet so they could ride in the bike trailer behind us. As soon as they were two, they got tricycles to ride. Then they graduated to “big-girl” bikes with training wheels. Then they ditched the training wheels. And last summer, at ages 8 and 6, they did their first charity ride of 7 miles with my husband. They couldn’t have been prouder of themselves.
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Committing to healthy eating as a family is another great way to build family togetherness. Yes, this takes work, but there’s no reason even the littlest “helpers” can’t help.
Our girls have been setting the table since they could reach it, which was around the same time they started helping with food prep. First it was just simple things like washing lettuce, shucking corn, and trimming green beans. But both can make themselves a healthy breakfast or lunch without grownup assistance. And Kimmie has planned and cooked several healthy, well-balanced meals for the entire family with only minimal help.
2. Pull ideas from a hat.
If you want to find a fun way to engage in activities as a family then why not make the process of choosing an activity into a fun and spontaneous event? Writing down ideas on strips of paper and putting these in a hat could be a great way to encourage the kids to get on board with family activities.
Spontaneity is always appealing to kids. And the sky’s the limit when you come up with activities for your “family fun” hat. The activities could range from going to the zoo or your family’s favorite museum, to a trip out together for ice cream. Or maybe watching a movie, or playing a game. Or baking some cookies, or going ice skating or swimming together. Maybe even catching a ball game with your hometown team, or seeing if there are any last-minute tickets available at the local theater. Or even something as simple as a walk around the neighborhood.
It doesn’t matter whether the ideas are wild and crazy or down-to-earth. Either way, spending the time together on fun adventures will bring your family closer together. Who knows, maybe one slip of paper might suggest a spontaneous road trip? Which leads to my next suggestion:
3. Go on vacation together.
Another great way to bring the family closer together is to take a vacation. After all, nothing brings a family closer like making great memories and bonding over shared experiences.
Family vacations when I was growing up are some of my fondest memories of family time. Because of my father’s crazy work schedule, we made a point of going away as a family at least once a year together. It often wasn’t elaborate; we spent a lot of them in guest quarters on whatever military base my older brother called home at the time. But that was how my younger brother and I got to see many parts of the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. for the first time.
Even a short, spontaneous weekend getaway is a great way to spend time together as a family. Look for some last-minute flights to a city you and the family have always wanted to see. Or check nearby campgrounds to see if they have any openings next weekend. We try to do this at least once every summer, whenever the weekend forecast is perfection, and those memories are priceless for our girls.
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If you really want to invest in the opportunity to get away as a family, then consider buying a camper or RV. Rockwood travel trailers are a super way to be able to bring “home” with you whenever you go. You won’t have to worry about hotel reservations during busy travel seasons, and you can camp anywhere year-round. Ultimately, though, the destination is irrelevant. Spending some time together with your family is the most straightforward way to bring you all closer together.
4. Have a weekly family date night
Some families might call this a “family meeting” or “weekly catch-up session,” but I prefer to think of it as Family Date Night. This is a sacred standing appointment you have with each other, to spend time together as a family. If weeknights are too full of practices and meetings for everyone to sit down at the table together, Family Date Night can also serve as an opportunity for everyone to catch up in ways that otherwise might happen gradually over the course of the week.
Now that I have a family of my own, Saturday is still Family Date Night. It’s the one night of the week when we keep the calendar clear of outside commitments. My husband spends the day cooking an elaborate dinner for everyone, and we all get to catch up in greater depth than during the weeknight. Because it’s not a work/school day, we often find we can have deeper conversations about our hopes and dreams on Saturday night. Many of our family vacation plans formulate over the Saturday night dinner table.
This can take whatever form your family likes. Maybe you want to have a weekly Family Game Night where you all play board games together. Maybe it’s Family Movie Night, whether at home or out at the local cinema. Maybe that’s the one night a week you go out to dinner together, or get takeout. What you do for Family Date Night doesn’t matter, as long as you’re doing it together.
5. Get to work together.
When I was growing up, I remember getting dragged along to many volunteer commitments at church with my mother. That my brother and I would pitch in and help was a given. We never questioned this, and as we got older, we found that this worked both ways. Our mama was always there to help us with our projects, and continues to do so to this day. Like the time I threw a baby shower for a friend when I had a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old at home. She had my back, just like I’d always had hers.
Nowadays, my husband knows that I’m there to help if he needs to coordinate a party for his colleagues. My kids see my work as Troop Cookie Mama for Girl Scouts, and get dragged along to my church meetings with me. And they know that they sometimes have to help with my church activities, just like my hubby has done his share of schlepping around cases of Girl Scout cookies.
But don’t forget about projects around the house. No, they’re not fun, but everyone pitching in together gives you a sense of joint ownership. Making sure that everyone does their share of the routine chores and tidying is one place to start.
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Have your kids “help” with the bigger projects, too. The girls have been the assistant-handing-Daddy-his-tools on more than one plumbing project, and handing me mine for more than one shelf installation. And every year they help with planting our gardens and harvesting the produce. It may seem like a trivial thing, but “working in the trenches together” like this will bring you together like nothing else.
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What about you? What are your family’s favorite ways to bring your family closer together? Let us know in the comments!
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