Kate Neeley, contributing writer

 

 

What comes to mind when you think about family activities? Do you think of a warm, fuzzy collection of good memories? Or do you get a knot of stress in your stomach? Maybe a little bit of both? With spring and summer upon us, Cache Valley’s offerings for family activities are expanding. If you’re not a winter sports family, you might have been indoors for quite some time. Family activities are indoor or outdoor, planned or spontaneous. Read on for some thoughts from a few experienced families, and even an expert opinion from our local marriage and family therapy community.

If you look around and feel pressure to plan certain things and your family doesn’t fit that, or you try to do things together and it leads to more negative interactions than positive, maybe a new perspective will help. Think about it: If it helps create positive vibes, then it’s a good thing. Maybe it doesn’t really matter what activities you do; perhaps it just depends on the family. For the Weston family of Providence, the game Dungeons and Dragons gets everyone into an imaginary world where they’re invested in a quest. It’s one way they escape the mundane and do something unique together. Also, everyone wins. In more ways than one.

What is it for you? Maybe it’s not a big event, but more an everyday thing that brings smiles for your family. The Gledhills like to take turns sharing their favorite part of the day when they’re together at dinner or other times. It’s a casual conversation that brings goodness to the forefront and can actually provide opportunities for bonding and a positive feeling in general.

Aubrey of Millville, a loving and artistic mother of four busy kids says, “The things we try and plan are often full of complaining — like hikes — but the spontaneous things like dancing ridiculously to their music are the ones that lead to a happier connection at home.” So try and watch for those moments that can be turned into something fun.

For Heidi, a mother of four, she says her family likes to go on bike rides after dinner. When the whining happens, she doesn’t back down. She says, “We usually just require it (we call it forced family fun). By the time we make it home, everyone’s attitude has changed for the better and we’re all glad we went. It’s magic to do something physically active together.” Or, perhaps, Heidi is a magic mom to see how to create the right opportunities and then follow through with them.

Maybe just having a mutual interest can create some solid connections in a family. The Cowley family likes to watch the show Survivor together. They talk about strategies and who they want to win. That can totally be a great way to connect and it’s not elaborate and doesn’t require a lot of planning. If it accomplishes the goal of good vibes in the family, it counts. Don’t overthink it. You’ve got this.

Joanna Chase is a local marriage and family therapy intern and has seen a lot. She is a mother of six, works with people in the therapy world, and knows what helps and what doesn’t. Below are her tips for family activities:
1. Make it a priority. Plan at least one day a week to spend time as a family. While vacations are amazing, spending time together every week should be at the top of your list.
2. Make it simple. Spending time together does not have to be elaborate, expensive, or cause a lot of stress. Find simple ways to spend time together doing things like playing games, riding bikes, going for hikes, or just playing ball in the backyard.
3. Get rid of distractions. Removing distractions like work, devices, or a never- ending to-do list is important. Remember, quality time is better than quantity, so make your time together count.
4. Create connection. Creating connection with our family members is the greatest way to stay happy and healthy. Plan activities that allow you to get to know one another, laugh, and enjoy being together.
5. Let everyone be involved in the planning. Sitting down and creating a family bucket list is a great way to ensure everyone is involved in planning family activities and can have something to look forward to. Family members can take turns being in charge, so one person doesn’t get burnt out.
6. Have fun! Enjoy your time together. Expect some activities to fail, expect your kids will still argue or have meltdowns, and don’t expect perfection. It’s the little moments that count. So sit back, take a big breath, and enjoy the journey!