We need to provide family bonding opportunities for our kids now more than ever.
It is no doubt that we are in the midst of times of upheaval and uncertainty due to the current global pandemic.
With new school environments, virtual and homeschooling on the rise, cancellations of vacations and extracurricular activities, reports of racial unrest, and increasing political vitriol, our kids are keenly aware that this year has been less than peaceful.
While the media often focuses on the dramatic events occurring in the outside world, families must focus on fostering an environment of security and peace in their homes.
Before we get any further, let’s talk about our kids’ most basic needs:
Kids basic needs
Kids needs are often so simple in nature, but the importance of meeting these needs is gigantic.
In a recent article by Jane Sheppard, CPC, FMCHC, a child’s true needs were narrowed down to the following seven requirements:
- unconditional love
- opportunities to grow
- open communication
- ability to gain life skills
Of all of these important needs, security is number one for a reason. Without a feeling of security, it can be very difficult for kids to experience any of the other needs on the list!
While the importance of security seems obvious, the bigger question is:
How do we create a feeling of security at home when the outside world is a mess?
I’m so glad you asked, my friend.
We can create a feeling of security for our kids by establishing regular family anchors that give us lots of opportunities for family bonding.
What is a family anchor?
A family anchor is a regularly occurring event that brings opportunities for family bonding.
Just like the anchor of a ship keeps a boat from drifting every which way, family anchors can provide our kids with the stability and security that they desperately need right now.
Now, it’s important to recognize that a family anchor isn’t the same thing as a simple daily, weekly or monthly routine.
Routines are SO important in helping a home to run smoothly, but their purpose is more functional. Unlike routines, family anchors have a stronger element of family bonding and connection.
(That’s not to say that I’m knocking routines at all! In fact, I feel so passionately about routines that I’ve created an awesome Productivity Pack for Moms! It is full of important routines, schedules, and checklists to help you get your home running smoothly!) You can grab the Productivity Pack for Moms right here:
Often, getting our routines in place makes it easier to start forming our family anchors.
When we have the basic functioning of our home running smoothly, we are more equipped to start creating opportunities for family bonding.
Let’s get into some details now about these family anchors! It is easiest to divide these family bonding opportunities into how often the occur: daily, weekly, and monthly.
Okay, let’s do this!
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Daily family bonding opportunities
Daily family bonding opportunities don’t need to be lengthly or formal.
If fact, it’s better if they’re kept short and sweet. The quality of the connection and daily family bonding matters so much more than the quantity of minutes spent.
So don’t stress or think that you need to add a lot of new stuff to your daily schedule!
Take a look at the ideas for daily family bonding activities and ONLY choose one or two for right now.
Once these family anchors become habit, then consider adding one more. The key here is to start slowly to keep yourself and your family from burning out quickly.
Believe me, I know how rushed those mornings can be with kids at home! That’s why all of these ideas for daily morning family bonding activities are super short and simple:
- hug each of your kids the first time you see them in the morning. A loving physical touch first thing in the morning goes a long well in helping our kids to feel loved and secure.
- have a family prayer together. Pray specifically for your kids and their needs or what they’ll be facing that day.
- eat breakfast together
- hold a short devotional or scripture study
- listen to a short motivational podcast (I LOVE Darren Daily. On very rare occasion, the material may be a little adult, so I recommend previewing it first!)
- if you homeschool, check out this post here that discusses the importance of starting the day with a morning meeting.
If you are a stay-at-home mom or a work-from-home mom, you have the opportunity to connect with your kids regularly in the afternoons too.
Some simple family bonding activities you might consider:
- spend ten minutes after school talking about their day. Try to ask open-ended questions. Instead of “How was your day?” ask “What was the best thing that happened today?”
- have an afternoon snack together
- be available to help them with homework
- choose an audiobook to listen to together in the car as you drive to extracurricular sports and activities
Family dinner time is so important! It is one of the most studied family anchors and is a proven way to create opportunities for family bonding.
Kids who have family dinners regularly have higher grades, are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs, and are less likely to be depressed or suicidal as teenagers. On a less serious note, they are also more likely to be more adventurous eaters and eat more healthfully.
To make family dinner effective as a family bonding opportunity, try these ideas:
- turn off all screens, including the TV
- purchase a set of family conversation cards. Often having a topic to discuss already provided makes the conversation much better.
- play some fun family dinner games. This game requires no board game or pieces, just your minds and your creativity!
- have your kids help with cooking the meal, setting and clearing the table, or doing the dishes. Having some ownership of the family dinner chores can help them to appreciate the dinner itself!
Typically parents are very conscious of creating a bedtime routine for their babies and toddlers. While this is definitely essential, continuing a bedtime routine until kids are much older can provide lots of opportunities for family bonding to occur. Some of our favorite ways to bond with our kids before bedtime are accomplished through these daily family anchors:
- hold a family “thankful circle.” Each night, we write down one thing that each person in our family is thankful for that happened during the day. To learn more about helping your kids practice gratitude, read this article.
- offering an evening family prayer. Again, make this prayer specific and mention each person in the family in the prayer.
- read aloud. Even though my oldest boys are 14 and 12, we still read aloud to our kids every night. Choose an epic series to read and spend 15-20 minutes reading together. Some of our very favorite bedtime stories series are Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon, The Guardians, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Hank the Cowdog, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and Percy Jackson. (It’s okay if the reading seems advanced for your younger kids. You can read them separate shorter stories for their interest as well.)
- give bedtime hugs. Your kids may not know it, but they need this loving, physical touch from you!
- when your kids are tucked in, tell them something you appreciate that they did that day
A quick reminder
Remember, you don’t need to do ALL of these. The point is to do a few of them EVERYDAY.
When these family anchors occur everyday, you can feel the strength of your family bonds increasing. Also, the stronger the family bonds your kids feel, the more secure they will be overall.
Weekly family bonding opportunities
While daily family bonding activities are very important, there are many things you can do on a weekly basis that can help your kids to feel secure and happy too.
Weeknight family bonding activities
If you’re like us, the week is packed full of things: practices, lessons, clubs, and more. It can be tricky to find time for weekly family bonding activities, but here are a few that have worked for us:
- family night. Once a week, we spend one evening playing a family game together, making a treat or watching an inspirational video. Often we’ll have a short scripture message too. Mostly we focus on making this night easy, fun, and quick.
- sports. While sports can often pull family members away from each other for practices and games, they can also do the opposite. Bringing the whole family along to watch and cheer for their sibling can be really unifying.
- choose ONE TV show to watch as a family. I say this with a bit of trepidation because TV watching can easily become mindless and disconnecting. BUT when done in moderation, it has been fun and unifying for our family to watch a regularly occurring show like The Mandalorian or even a bit of Thursday Night Football.
Weekend family bonding activities
Weekends are my absolute favorite time to have family bonding activities! With all the busyness of the week, many moms feel like we live for the weekends, am i right?!
Here are a few ideas for weekend family bonding:
- Friday night pizza and theater. This is a tradition that our kids do NOT let us miss! Every Friday night we have homemade pizza and watch a movie. The kids rotate among themselves to choose the movie – and no one is allowed to complain about the movie choice! We dim the lights like a real theater, eat popcorn, and snuggle together on the couch (if I’m lucky!).
- clean the house. Every Saturday we work together to clean the house. We spend less than a few hours dusting, scrubbing, wiping, and vacuuming together. (And yes, my four year old helps!)
- go on family outings: hikes, movies, ice cream, amusement parks, sporting events, etc.
- take care of the yard. This is another family event. Even young kids can put pulled weeds in the compost pile!
- go to church. Going to church is associated with at least ten measurable benefits – from feeling more gratitude to having a community of support.
Final thoughts about how to create opportunities for family bonding
I hope you are feeling inspired to create opportunities for family bonding in your home!
PLEASE remember that you don’t need to do anything costly, extravagant or that takes tons of time.
Start with one or two daily family bonding activities, such as giving your kids a hug when they wake up or having family dinner.
Then add one weekly family bonding activity to your routine.
Your efforts to create family bonding opportunities can become anchors for your kids and help them to feel the security they need.