Planning fun family activities can be challenging, mainly because one person's idea of a good time is another person's dreaded deed. What's more -- on the off chance that the kids in a family agree on something, it's not likely to be what the adults had in mind. That leaves parents with the unenviable job of balancing their own happiness with that of their kids, which is no easy task.
So what do you do? For starters, forget about pressuring your family into enjoying time together. Forced family fun is almost always a bummer for everyone involved. The good news is that there are strategies for making the most of the time with your tribe without resorting to coercion or threats of violence. Try our five ways to make forced family fun less forced, and you too may enjoy a pleasurable pastime with your peeps.
Ask for Input
Consider the old adage, "a family that plans together stays together." OK, maybe no one ever said that, but the idea is a good one. In order to ensure that your leisure time with your family is enjoyable, you need to consider everyone involved. This means honestly considering the likes and dislikes of each member of your family and creating an event or excursion that works for all.
So how does this democratic approach actually work? Start by asking each member of your family for suggestions and make a list of their responses. For example, if parents want a day at the beach and kids want something more action-packed, find a beach that offers activities such as jet skiing or snorkeling. You can spend half the day on your adrenaline-filled adventure and the other half lounging in your beach chair.
Empower Your People
There may be no better way to encourage a positive attitude toward family fun than by integrating each member into the activity at hand. Headed out for a picnic? Let your kids set the menu. Hosting a game night at home? Ask your spouse to be in charge of the music. And if you're taking a road trip, put each person in charge of some critical task, such as navigator, snack maker or DVD operator.
Delegating responsibility can be difficult for someone who's accustomed to doing everything for his or her family. But doing so empowers those involved to be a part of the activity rather than just being along for the ride. They'll also be much less likely to complain about it.
Family fun is a dish best served impromptu. Oftentimes the planners of the family fun (i.e., all of us parents) focus too much on the destination instead of the journey. Headed to a theme park? Remember that the anticipation of something can be better than the thing itself. In other words, your kids are likely to be in a great mood on the way to their vacation spot, so make the most of it. Sing songs, play games and enjoy each others' company. No one will care if you don't make it in record time if you've had fun along the way.
Similarly, don't get upset if things don't go exactly as planned. Lines too long at the state fair? Take in a movie until the crowd thins out. Just keep in mind that "plan B" can be a blast if you keep an open mind.
Have a Purpose
Family fun can be extra special when it involves a meaningful endeavor. Some families enjoy volunteering in their communities by doing things like participating in tree-planting days or hosting a car wash for a local charity. Others may set aside time to help out at a homeless shelter or work on a political campaign together. It doesn't matter what you decide to do, just be sure that each person is on board with the cause.
Is your family more adventurous? Consider planning a volunteer vacation. Until recently, traveling to distant lands to build schools or teach English was mainly for recent college grads looking for a bit of an adventure. These days, more families are choosing to spend their free time helping people in communities abroad. It's a great way to help those in need while strengthening your own family bonds.
Perhaps the best way to have fun with your family is to do something that requires teamwork. This can really bring a family together, while also having a great time. It may be something as simple as playing Pictionary or a more risk-taking endeavor in which each participant's performance affects the rest of the group (e.g., white-water rafting).
Even the simple act of preparing a meal together can be a blast and boost bonds. Try coming together to make homemade pizza. It gives you an opportunity to work together in a fun setting, but also allows each person to showcase his or her individuality through their choice of toppings.
No matter what activities you choose to do with your loved ones, keep in mind that the fun times you have with your family will be your life's most precious moments, so be sure to treasure your time together.
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- Kavanagh, Shannon. Mother of two. Personal correspondence. Jan 8, 2011.
- Koffler, Angela. Mother of two. Personal correspondence. Jan 7, 2011.
- O'Neill, Shelly. Mother of three. Personal correspondence. Jan 7, 2011.