By Pam Molnar
Winter is a quiet time for reflection. As the embers of holiday cheer fade, it allows us to see the things that need to be fixed. No, I am not referring to that cabinet door in the kitchen or the leaky faucet in the bathroom. According to a recent survey, the average family spends only 34 minutes together on weekdays.
If you are surprised to find your own family fits into that statistic, there is no need to panic. Like fresh fallen snow, winter gives us a chance at new beginnings. Take advantage of winter’s slower pace to reconnect with each other. If you need some inspiration, take a look at these 12 ideas.
1. Volunteer together – Working together for a cause makes a family closer. Whether you have been touched by a foundation’s work or just want to make a difference, it is a nice way to spend time together as a family. Try running a family friendly 5K or support your local Ronald McDonald House by preparing a meal.
2. Engage in creativity together – Gather around the kitchen table and work on colouring pages. Build houses out of Legos or take a painting class together. Expressing yourself through art not only helps to relieve stress, but it’s a fun activity that you can do over and over.
3. Go outside – No matter what the weather, find time to connect with the family outdoors. On sunny days, you can go for a bike ride or play soccer in the backyard. If you live near snow, build a snowman. If it’s raining, grab your umbrella and take a walk. Taking in the fresh air will clear your mind of everyday distractions and make room for new memories.
4. Several cooks in the kitchen – Think back to the holidays when everyone was working together to prepare a meal you would all enjoy. Cooking dinner together helps the picky eaters to see what ingredients go into the meal and gives the normal cook a few extra hands.
5. Unplug after 5 p.m. – Work emails, social media and random texts interrupt family time unnecessarily. With the exception of online homework or a FaceTime call with Grandma, there is no reason that a family has to spend the evening staring into their phones. Make it a habit to unplug before dinner and make your only communication be face to face.
6. Practice random acts of kindness – Doing a kindness to someone, especially someone not expecting it, will make both the giver and receiver feel good. Help the people in your house by doing a chore without being asked, handing over the TV remote to someone else or giving up the best seat in the car.
7. Date nights – While this may not sound like a family event, it is equally important for families to have one-on-one time with each of its members. This is true for the adults in the family as well as mom-and-me type dates with each child. Be sure to double the family fun by planning a special evening at home for those staying behind.
8. Slow down – There is something to be said about the families of yesteryear who sat around the radio and listened to the story. They had to use their own imagination to visualize the characters. Try to recreate the same impact by listening to a book on CD and putting together a puzzle together while you listen.
9. Spark conversation at dinner – Go beyond “How was your day?” to ask and answer thought provoking questions like “What features do you think will be on cars in ten years?” You can also play a game asking everyone how well they know each other. Ask the family if they know the name of Joey’s tutor or what Mom’s job title is.
10. You plan it night – Once a week, one person will plan the way the family will spend the night together. They will choose the menu and an activity (all within a set budget, of course). Even elementary aged students can make a shopping list from a recipe and look online for movie times.
11. Set a goal and work on it together – Winter resolutions often include changing a bad habit. Let everyone set their goal – lose 10 lbs, go to the gym three times a week, bring my math grade up – and once a week at dinner check in to see how everyone is doing. Share the ups and downs of your progress and lean on your family for support or suggestions.
12. Visit with the extended family – Continue to grow the family ties long after the holidays are over. Plan outings with the cousins, a couple’s dinner with the aunts and uncles or a regular game night with the siblings. If you live far apart, try a Friday night FaceTime or play video games together over WIFI connection.
Pam Molnar is a freelance writer and mother of three busy teenagers. Their family likes to reconnect over home cooked meals and board games. Follow her on Pam’s Party Printables on Etsy.