The power of teamwork and the rewards of cooperation and compromise can help kids develop into healthy adults. The challenge for parents is in finding engaging ways for kids to become part of a group dynamic while still being able to explore their individual contributions in positive ways. Kids love to play, but no child wants to be the last one chosen for a game every time. Mixing up the options and making group activities part of a rich family experience, with and without parent participation, is an effective way to help kids learn to respect others and value themselves.
Sitting around the table and talking is underrated. Start setting aside at least one day a week for a family feast. Make participation compulsory. Encourage your kids to talk about what's going on in school and what they're learning during after-school activities. Start the ball rolling by throwing out some questions about current news stories your kids might be interested in. Plan a weekend event together. Insist on mutual respect, and make sure older children aren't disparaging the contributions of their younger siblings. Family meals do more than build bonds. Kids who participate in regular family mealtimes do better in school, too.
The subject isn't important, but the together time is. You know your family's interests and style best, so choose an activity that will pique everyone's curiosity. Sign up for a seminar, nature walk, museum tour or other instructional outing. From visiting the zoo to exploring a model train museum, sharing an experience the whole family can enjoy will provide a focus for the excursion and offer lots of topics to talk and laugh about later. If you're on a budget, many community activities are offered free of charge or for a nominal fee.
Kids may act as though chores are a big pain, but they secretly crave the stability and structure they represent. Make chores a family affair by coming up with ways to share clean-up detail around the house. Clean out the garage, overhaul your landscape or paint the family room. Assign everyone a task, and plan a fun family activity, like a picnic, as a reward when the job is done. Yes, you could probably weed the flowerbeds faster by yourself -- and with less wear and tear on the plants -- but the idea is to make the task a way to set a family goal and reward yourselves when you've achieved it.
Cooking is a chore and a reward all rolled into one. Food preparation also takes place in the friendliest spot in your home: the kitchen. When you cook with your kids, you teach them useful skills, like how to plan, organize and perform tasks in a logical sequence. You encourage them to work together and to be creative, too. Although safety can be an issue with young children, you can still make them part of the process, even if they're just playing pretend with a child-sized set of measuring cups. Food prep is fun, and cooking together will show your kids that family time, laughter and a healthy dose of silliness really are the best seasonings.
Play a board game. Go camping, hiking or skiing. Build sand castles at the beach, or build a snowman in your front yard. Electronic games get a lot of press these days, but there are really lots of ways a family can bond by enjoying playtime together. Whatever your family choice happens to be, make sure everyone joins in. Although your family may be competitive by nature, try to keep the proceedings lighthearted. If everyone is participating, you're all winners.
Forts are fun for kids and adults. See 10 forts to build with kids to create the ultimate play experience.
- Adoption.com. "The Joys and Complexities of Sibling Relationships." Undated. 12/6/10.http://library.adoption.com/articles/the-joys-and-complexities-of-sibling-relationships.html
- Adoption Under One Roof. "5 Great Five-Minute Bonding Activities for Older Adopted Children." 4/11/09. 12/6/10.http://ouradopt.com/adoption-blog/apr-2009/juliec/5-great-five-minute-bonding-activities-older-adopted-children
- Business Balls. "Team Building Games." Undated. 12/6/10.http://www.businessballs.com/teambuildinggames.htm
- Gimundo. "10 Ways to Reconnect With Your Family." 10/11/09. 12/7/10.http://gimundo.com/blog/entry/zen-family-habits-simple-happiness-10-ways-to-reconnect-with-your-family/
- Gupta, Sourabh. "Team Building Activities for Kids."http://www.buzzle.com/articles/team-building-activities-for-kids.html
- Inspiring Mothers "Ten Family Traditions to Inculcate for a Closer-Knit Kinship." 2/15/10. 12/6/10.http://www.inspiringmothers.net/parenting/close-knit-relationship-and-family-bonding-activities.html
- Jubed. "Youth Group Games." Undated. 12/6/10.http://www.jubed.com/youth_ministry/
- Parents Connect. "Top Ways to Bond With Your Kids." Undated. 12/6/10.http://www.parentsconnect.com/parenting-tips/bond-with-your-kids.jhtml
- Siblings Forever. "Sibling Facts." Undated. 12/6/10.http://www.siblingsforever.com/sibling_facts
- University of Missouri. "Teaching Tips: Team Building Activities for Elementary Students." Undated. 12/6/10.http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/1045
- Winning Stepfamilies. "Statistics." Undated. 12/7/10.http://www.winningstepfamilies.com/BlendedFamilyStatistics.html