These days, family bonding isn’t as simple as it sounds. We all lead hectic lives, and all family members – even small kids – can have busy schedules. Plus, constant distractions from TV and social media can get in the way of meaningful interactions between parents and kids, as well as between siblings.
To celebrate National Families Week (15th–21st May), we’ve put together these ten steps for better family bonding.
1. Eat together
Sitting around the table, as a family, can be extremely valuable in terms of bonding. It’s a great time for everyone to engage in a group conversation, and for you to find out what’s happening in your kids’ lives. Setting up some routines around mealtimes can also provide a sense of security and comfort – especially for younger children. You may choose, for instance, to eat at regular spots around the table. Or perhaps everyone can have a special place mat, or a serviette ring that they always have next to their plate. This sense of familiarity can help with creating a sense of stability and comfort.
2. Get children involved in preparing meals
Encouraging kids of all ages to be actively involved in preparing meals can help make the time that you sit down at the table as a family even more meaningful. Small children can help you set the table, or even pour bowls of cereal at breakfast time, and older children may even be interested in helping you prepare the family meal.
You could even arrange a pizza night, where you make homemade pizza bases and prepare a whole range of toppings. The whole family can then gather around the kitchen to select and prepare their own personal pizzas.
3. Enforce ‘no technology’ time
For certain periods each day, for example dinner time, request that no family member uses their phone, tablet or computer. Use this time to encourage everyone to talk about their day, or do something that doesn’t involve technology for just a short while. Make sure you lead by example, and resist the temptation to sneak a quick look at your own phone or computer!
4. Exercise and play together
Getting some fresh air and exercising can be a fantastic way to bond as a family. Try to find a fun, outdoor activity that the whole family can get involved in. Depending on the age of your children, this could be bike riding (with small kids sitting in seats on the back of adults’ bikes), a game of tennis, bushwalking, playing soccer in a park, or even swimming at the beach in summer. Family exercise is also a great way for kids to develop important skills, and for everyone to get some valuable exercise.
5. Holiday together
Family holidays, when everyone is removed from the stress and distractions of everyday life, can be invaluable in terms of bonding. When planning holidays, ask your children (if they’re old enough) where they would like to go and what interests them, and as much as possible, try to plan holidays accordingly.
While on holidays, aim for a good combination of activities and ‘down time’. Don’t try to cram so much in that everyone ends up exhausted and frazzled. Ensure everyone has plenty of time to relax together, and to interact in a meaningful way.
6. Get kids involved early, and often
Sometimes as a parent, it’s easier in the short-term to take responsibility for planning and executing family activities. However, by involving kids from a young age and encouraging them to play a part in the organisation, they’re far more likely to take an active interest, long term. For instance, you could ask one child to choose a cake design for a surprise cake for a sibling. Or, perhaps you could ask them to help plan and organise the party activities for a sibling’s birthday party.
7. Be interested
It may seem obvious, but when it comes to family bonding, it’s very important that you take an active interest in your kids’ lives – not just by taking them to lessons or ferrying them around in the car. Sit down and help them with their homework. Read stories at night before bed. Ask them about their friends, their activities and what they like/don’t like. If your child shares something special with you – perhaps a secret fear or reservation – be sure to follow up at a later date to show you’ve remembered and let them know that it’s important to you too.
8. Have one-on-one time too
As well as spending time together as a group, having one-on-one time with individual family members can go a long way towards developing strong, trusted relationships. If you have several children, make sure that they feel your attention is equally divided – and perhaps encourage them to help you plan what activities you’ll do with them, and when. It could be going to the park, the movies, the museum, or anything that’s likely to interest you and your child. Maybe even create a wall calendar, where you list what activities will be happening over the course of the month.
9. Create meaningful things together
Creating things, as a unit, can be another great way to strengthen the family bond. By all working together towards a common goal, you’re helping children to appreciate the value of hard work and persistence, and you’re also creating something that you can all be proud of as a family. For instance, if you have enough outdoor space, you could all work together to create a vegetable garden – with every family member owning and looking after a particular section. You could have a watering roster, and when the time is right, you can all work together to think of a meal you can make together using the produce you’ve grown.
10. Be together
While there are certainly plenty of activities that can help strengthen your connection as a family, the best possible way to develop a positive family bond is simply to be together, as often as you can. Even if it’s watching a movie as a family, playing a board game, listening to music, or even just hanging out around the house while everyone does their own thing, it’s important to feel a sense of togetherness and belonging. After all, that’s what being a family is all about.