Your family has been running in circles for months. You may have spent time in the house or car together, but were you really connected emotionally to one another? Did you have any meaningful conversations – especially spiritual ones? The more disconnected families become, the weaker the supportive relationships within the family are. As your relationships with your kids grow weaker, your opportunities to coach, teach and nurture them lessen as well. If you’re on a bit of a downhill in your family relationships, it’s not too late to turn things around over the next few weeks.
It’s not just about spending more time together, but more time together when you are actively engaged with one another. Fair warning. If your family normally spends time together on individual devices, your children will roll their eyes at you when you suggest doing something together device free. Those who are extreme.y addicted to their devices might even get angry that you want to do something with them (and without devices). That’s okay. Part of the trick to detoxing from devices is finding things in the world that are more engaging than screens. (You will need to put your devices away, too.)
So then what? Here are some great activities to get your family having fun together and talking to one another again.
- Games. Indoor board games are often best for encouraging conversation, but outdoor games like croquet or corn hole can work as well. Our town even has an outdoor area where anyone can come play boules/bocci, corn hole and other activities using their equipment.
- Walks, hikes and holiday lights drives. Walks and hikes are healthiest, but spending time together in the car without devices and looking at interesting things that can spark conversations can work as well. Remember no devices other than perhaps Christmas music on the car radio.
- Hot cocoa. Gather round the table or by the fire and drink hot chocolate together. Have fun adding marshmallows, using chocolate spoons or cocoa “bombs” or mug toppers. Just let your kids talk about anything and everything as you enjoy the process and the result.
- Off the beaten path. If you live near a city or even some small towns try searching online for “off the beaten path” or “unusual things to do” plus the name of your city or town. Chances are good that one of the lists will have some things to do in your area that are unusual, fun, inexpensive and about which you had no idea. (Fair warning that some of these lists are more focused on bars than activities, so when looking online with children, it’s a good time to talk about the very best ways to spend free time.)
- Baking and decorating cookies. A favorite for many decades, baking sugar cookies and decorating them is guaranteed to get everyone involved. You only need a couple of cookie cutters, a sugar cookie recipe or premade dough, confectioners sugar, food coloring, sprinkles and/or colored sugar to have lots of fun. You may even want to share some of your creations with others to spread a little holiday joy. The families on our street would make goodies and take them around to each house during the holidays every year for many years, making our street closer, too.
- Service projects. There are so many ways to serve others and many of them are family friendly. Our website has tons of great ideas to get you started. Just click on the service project tab for a complete list. http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/
- “Best of” challenge. Have a family adventure working together to find the best … whatever. For several years, our family went in search of the best key lime pie. We ordered a piece to share at restaurants and tried various recipes. If you eat out a lot anyway, compare and contrast restaurants or foods. Or try a category of recipes. Or find the best holiday light display or best Christmas music. The topic doesn’t matter as much as the conversations you have as you compare and contrast.
- Jigsaw puzzles. Every holiday season we set up a card table and work together on a Christmas puzzle. We have several now, so if we finish one we can start another. It’s a nice relaxing activity to work on together as a family.
- Conversation starters. If your family rarely talks to each other anymore, conversations can be awkward. Try conversation starter questions. You can find lots online for free. Look for ones that will provide unusual information about everyone or lead to story telling. The cards are also great for family gatherings when your children are around relatives they barely know – especially if the relatives aren’t good at having conversations with children.
- Read aloud. When I was little, our city’s local paper had a serial story every Christmas. Every issue had a new section of the story printed in it and families would read them aloud together. I believe that is how Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published. No one to my knowledge publishes holiday serial stories now, but you can do the same with any book. Choose a holiday classic or one of the C.S. Lewis books. You can even have a night of reading picture books from your local library. It’s not an English lit class, so have fun with it. Ask what your kids think will happen the next night in the story, if it’s one they don’t know or talk about the characters, action or dialogue as points of interest instead of a literature lesson.
This list is by no means complete. Design or choose your own activities. Just make sure they provide plenty of opportunities for fun and talking with one another. Sometimes reconnecting physically by cuddling under a blanket and watching a Charlie Brown Christmas is the reconnecting your kids need the most. Don’t let your family drift farther apart during the holidays. Find ways to reconnect and become closer. It’s crucial for the future well being and spiritual health of your children.