Families That Play Together, Stay Together

By none

Families That Play Together, Stay Together-dena smith-naturally savvy

Drive through many neighborhoods after school and you will notice how eerily quiet it is. Basketball hoops stand still, bikes are stored away in garages, and a vacant swing sets gently sway to a lonely breeze. Where are the giggling kids jumping rope or playing hopscotch? What about the hollering and shouting from neighborhood football games? Or even the occasional shattering of glass as the proverbial baseball trespasses an unsuspecting neighbor’s window? What happened to hide-n-seek and freeze tag? Where are all the children?

We all know that children laugh and play much more than adults, but with the introduction of TV, video games and computers the time that children participate in unstructured “free play” -- particularly outdoors -- is lessening each decade.

As much as we may hate to admit it, many of us are spending more time in front of a screen than in front of each other. Some people may interpret this as “play,” however, without human interaction and laughter it seems more like sedation than play.

In past generations, religion and food (each with their respective traditions) not only defined a family but were also the glue that held people together. Church and evening meals were times when everyone would unite and celebrate their commonality and interconnectedness. In orthodox households, children were often expected to be present, but silent. At the time their value was often measured in what they could do for the family, not who they were in the family.

Thankfully, as we continue to evolve as a society, we are increasingly recognizing that children are our future and we are beginning to give them the respect and attention they need and deserve. They have an innate wisdom that we must protect and preserve or it will quickly evaporate. Our maturity and strength as parents is revealed when we acknowledge that we are not only our children’s first teachers, we are also their students.

So, how do we reclaim our families and incorporate more fun into our lives without the digital interruptions? Here are some suggestions:

  • Limit total daily screen time. This includes TV, computers and video games. Set a time limit for each (such as 30 minutes) which you then strictly enforce. An egg timer is very useful, as is utilizing the sleep timer feature on the TV or parental controls on computers.

  • Get outside everyday. Regular doses of fresh air and sunshine are not only good for the body, but they are good for the mind and soul. Both are natural mood enhancers and are sorely absent from our busy modern lives. Regular exercise also releases spirit-lifting hormones and gets the lymph glands moving, which in turn helps to strengthen the immune system.

  • Create non food-centered family traditions. Emotions can run high in families when the only time a family gathers is for a food-centered event, such as an evening meal. These set interactions can create emotional associations to food. When food and love are thought of as being equally important, yet separate, forms of nourishment, the need for “comfort foods” is diminished.

  • Establish a daily “Family Game Time.” Even if it’s only 30 minutes a day, find a regular time slot in your day where your family can sit down and play a game together. On nice days, take the game outside onto a picnic blanket or outdoor table. Better yet, opt for a physical outdoor activity such as basketball or road hockey on a nice day.

  • Develop a list of favorite family activities. What shared interests or hobbies does your family enjoy? Be sure to include input from all family members and post your list someplace visible, such as your fridge. Ideally, these activities will incorporate some type of movement, rather than a sedentary activity such as watching a movie. Some common favorites might be

  1. Puzzles & board games
  2. Bicycling
  3. Boating (kayaking, canoeing, sailing, etc.)
  4. Bowling
  5. Skating (Rollers, blades, boards, etc.)
  6. Racquet sports
  7. Toy kits (airplanes, rockets, remote-control cars, etc.)
  8. Organized sports (baseball, softball, basketball, football, volleyball, ball golf, disc golf, Ultimate, etc.)
  • Have a regular “Family Date Night.” Whether you schedule it once a week or once a month, the important thing is to schedule it on your calendar. Like Family Game Time, your date night should be sacred, so avoid scheduling anything else that may interfere then determine how activities will be chosen (rotating choice among family members, in order down your list, shuffle among them by choosing from a hat, etc.).

  • Foster mutual respect among family members. The strength of a family lies in the unique skills, talents and passions of each individual. When feelings, opinions, ideas and dreams are not only allowed but also encouraged in a family, each person is free to “just be” and to blossom into the best version of themselves. We need to recognize that one’s weaknesses are often closely related to their strengths and when we find fault in others, it is likely because our own faults are being mirrored back to us. Accept weaknesses and embrace strengths. Love, support, and encourage one another in all that you do. Not only does this build trust, respect, patience and loving acceptance, it also models excellent sportsmanship.

How many times a day does your child ask, “Will you play with me?”

Chances are, the younger they are, the more you likely hear it. The next time they ask, you should jump at the opportunity. Otherwise, the days of being asked will quickly fade away. It is a valuable reminder to us that family time is precious, play is essential and laughter is the ultimate peacemaker. Regular playtime as a family will build a solid foundation of happy memories from which family members can always draw strength. The more time you spend together, particularly playing together, the closer you will become and the tighter your bonds will be. You will find that your children, even as teenagers, will look forward to this sacred time together.

Families that play together, do stay together.

By none| November 29, 2008
Categories:  Nest

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