By Peggy Carstensen, LCPC, ATR
The silver lining to pandemic life I hear about most often is quality family time. Parents are spending more time at home and many children are loving the extra hours in pajamas. I’ve also seen (and resonated deeply with) my fair share of memes about how being cooped up together comes with its own challenges. I’ve compiled a few tried-and-true family bonding examples that have contributed to successfully tolerating the same faces for months.
1. Anything outside. Scavenger hunts, walks, search for rocks, jump in puddles, wash cars. Anything. I consider myself an air conditioning-loving, “indoor cat”, run-inside-when-a-bug shows-up type of person. Yet as the weather is turning, I am telling myself and anyone who will listen how imperative it is that we enjoy the outdoors while the sun is shining. (Not that we can’t have fun wearing our coats or rolling in the snow, but I feel a strong pull to be outside knowing we will have to be extra creative to not feel more shut in than previous winters.)
2. Friday Night Movie Night! This is not a ground-breaking bonding suggestion by any means, but it’s always a crowd pleaser and can be personalized as a family to include special snacks, home-made pizzas, fancy popcorn seasonings, etc. My crew is working our way through all the Disney classics, but depending on children’s ages, you can rotate who chooses the movie. I’ve also heard of families doing elaborate dinner menus and attire to coordinate with the movie.
3. Create a scrapbook of this time. Someday we'll look back on this difficult and stressful time with a lot of emotions. Use this as an opportunity to be creative - with your child or as a whole family, take and choose the images that capture the memories made these past few months best. Then order the prints and arrange them in an album or decorate a scrapbook. Have your kid(s) personalize and add entries about their feelings, experiences and memories.
4. Purge. Most of us are familiar with TV shows about organizing and decluttering. Not only is this productive, but it can also be fun to do as a family. The act of going through items and clothing we no longer need or want simplifies our lives, clears out physical space for new experiences, and helps us feel in control during a very uneasy chapter of our lives. Helping our children understand the importance of holding on to necessary and well-loved items and donating excess to those in need is also a very important lesson. (Tip: Take it one room at a time and help each other versus unloading all closets all at once.)
5. Get away. This may sound backwards, but one of the healthiest things we can do to bond is have time separate from each other. We need opportunities to feel like our “old” selves (pre-COVID, pre-kids, pre-anxiety all around), to recharge, to scroll our phone without guilt. Being apart gives us the chance to miss our family members. The trick with this one is guilt free time apart. It’s ok to want a break. It’s ok to give your spouse a break. This can include things like:
Coordinating with your spouse or someone you trust for you to have time solo. (Pro tip: If you don’t schedule it, peaceful time alone probably won’t happen organically.)
Extra long showers
Taking the long route home just to listen to music in the car
Hikes or bike rides by yourself
If your family is struggling to connect or having difficulty managing conflict, we are here to help! Many of our therapists are experiencing and skilled at providing family therapy. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.