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5 Tips for Family Bonding during a Pandemic

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