Spending Time With Your Children: Family Day, A Bonding Tradition
Author: Laura Doerflinger, MS, LMHC
What’s on your family’s plate? Work, volunteering, sports, school, groups, clubs, social activities, household chores? Do you ever wonder how you will keep your family bonded? I have worked as a child and family counselor for over a decade and keeping families bonded has been a particular goal of mine. Fourteen years ago when I held my daughter for the first time, the goal became personal. As my family grew, I knew I had to make a deeper time commitment in order to keep our relationships devoted. I wanted to avoid the pitfalls of my clients who found their families disconnected during crucial developmental stages. I could see that all the challenges my clients face could be challenges for me too. That’s when I came up with the idea of celebrating a weekly tradition in bonding called Family Day.
Just like Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving, Family Day is a holiday of sorts that takes place on a weekly basis. We celebrate love, connection and the uniqueness of our family. We are committed to this day no matter what the obstacles: work, school, activities, sports or house maintenance. This is the day that we wake up as one and go to bed as one. Every moment is about togetherness, focus, and quality. We started the tradition in 1999. We kept the day simple but active since our children were three and five. They crawled into our bed first thing in the morning for cuddle time. Then we would head to the kitchen and make a special breakfast. After breakfast, we wrote up a list of activities on a scrap piece of paper. Everyone chose an activity giving each family member a chance to share his or her favorite games or events. I cannot tell you how many times in those early years that we played blocks, dolls or hide-n-seek but the activity was merely an avenue for relationship building.
The activities changed as the kids got older and included movies, hikes and day-long adventures. But when the day was done, we felt connected for the long, busy week ahead. Family Day might be a beneficial tradition for you. It has brought many of my clients’ families closer together, some that were on the brink of disconnection.
This is how it works:
- Pick a day: We picked Sunday. A day is really a perfect amount of time to fulfill each person’s special activity. If you find a whole day is too hard on your schedules, then an evening could work too. For example, a Friday family game night might be fun or a Saturday pizza and a movie could work. Or expand on a time you already have in your schedule like church and breakfast.
- Wake up together: When our children were young, they usually made their way into our bed so we woke up cuddling, wrestling, or playing a guessing game. Now that they are older, we meet on the couch for something hot to drink, chat or tell jokes then head for the breakfast table.
- Breakfast Time: Every holiday has a feast. Our feast is at Family Day breakfast. Everybody has a task as we all work hard to make the meal into an event. My son learned how to make coffee (with supervision) by the time he was four and my daughter makes her “famous” pancakes. We do not hold back at this meal. Our breakfast is filled with goodies.
- Family Day Journal: Although we spent years writing a list of activities on a scrap piece of paper, one Family Day I suggested we write our lists in a journal. From that point forward, after breakfast we bring out our Family Day Journal and take turns writing our special list. We even added a page of family news. We look back fondly on our list every so often remembering our past Family Days.
- Family Day Activities: In our family, we come up with eight Family Day activities. Because there are four of us, we each get two choices. The writer gets to pick who is first, second, and third. The writer shares his/her pick last. Ideas will vary with your children’s age. My son tended to pick hide-n-seek when he was younger whereas my daughter tended to pick an art project. Now, they pick movies, games, or shopping. No matter the choice, we all must participate. Some suggestions are hide-n-seek, playing a board game at a coffee shop, planting a vegetable garden, baking cookies, making paper dolls, playing dolls, building a city with blocks, making up a scary story, going for ice cream, renting movies at home or going to a movie, painting each other’s portrait on canvas place mats, decorating bird houses, making Christmas gifts, carving pumpkins, rock climbing, hosting an International Ping-Pong Invitational, putting together puzzles, playing house, playing I-spy with a special shell we found at the beach on our last Family Day, playing bingo, going to visit family, adventuring out to a museum, telling tall tales, making clay models, and so much more. The list is prioritized in terms of time-line or we’ll put the ideas in a basket and draw. Although we parents do have some veto power (i.e. money or time constraints), generally anything the kids pick is accepted.
- Commitment: We are committed to Family Day every week, however, there are always some exceptions. For instance, if I am going on a training weekend or my husband has a conflicting job, Family Day will be carried on by the parent at home or we will reschedule it in advance to Saturday. Our friends and family know that we are not available on Sunday because we are focusing on each other. After almost 10 years, I can say that Family Day was the best thing we ever established in our little clan.
Copyright 2008 Parent Education Group – Reprints Accepted – Two links must be active in the bio. The article homepage: http://www.familyauthority.com/articles/family-day.html
About the Author
Laura Doerflinger, MS, a licensed mental health counselor, is the Executive Director of the Parent Education Group at http://www.familyauthority.com/ and the author of the audio book, Emotionally Balanced Parenting.