It started off like any other dinner. My family gathered at the table, offered a word of thanks, and began to fill our plates. Then, everything changed. My wife’s phone rang. An emergency at work, a crisis, demands her immediate attention…she has to take the call. My oldest daughter looks at the clock, “Oh, I didn’t know it was this late. I have play practice in ten minutes. Gotta go.” She wolfs down her dinner in three bites and heads for the door. My younger daughter watches her get up, then smiled hesitantly as she says, “I have youth group tonight and Hanna’s taking me. I guess I gotta go now too. She’s my ride.” She jumps up and runs after her sister. I remain sitting at the dinner table…alone…staring at empty chairs before realizing my next appointment is arriving at the office soon. So, I quickly finish my dinner and head back to the office.
Do you have days like this? Circumstances may vary, but I imagine we all have days in which everyone is pulled in separate directions, caught up in the rush of schedules, running on adrenaline overload. We all feel the pull of work, sporting practices, music lessons, play practice, housework, homework, study groups, church activities…and the list goes on. We start to feel disconnected as each family member goes their own way to do their own thing. In the process, we may even lose our family identity.
There is a two-part solution to this “rush-of-life syndrome.” First, cut back on the schedule. Children need down-time to mature. They need unstructured time to relax and learn how to manage their own time. Allowing your children to have unstructured down-time encourages them to develop autonomy and creativity. They develop greater problem-solving skills when they have free time to manage. Having free-time to relax and play also helps to decrease anxiety and moodiness. So, create some space in your family schedule. Allow for some unstructured free-time.
Second, take some of that down-time and have a family fun night. Make a plan to simply having fun as a family, whether it is one or two times a month or once a week. Family fun night may be as simple as watching a DVD together and talking about it over ice cream. Or, it could be more complex, like an overnight visit to an indoor waterpark. Whatever activity you choose, a family fun night has many benefits.
- Family fun nights allow your family to bond with one another. You’ve heard the sayings: “A family that plays together stays together.” “A family that prays together stays together.” “A family that volunteers together stays together.” Basically, a family that enjoys family fun time stays together. They grow closer together.
- Family fun nights give your family the opportunity to talk and learn about one another’s lives, interests, joys, disappointments, and hurts. Family fun night gives you time to really get to know one another, rejoice with one another, comfort one another, and encourage one another. Family fun nights help families grow more intimate.
- Family fun nights build a family identity that includes fun, laughter, and togetherness. They create a family that serves as a secure base and safe haven from which to explore the world.
If you have trouble coming up with ideas, here are a few family fun nights you might enjoy.
- Family Fun Night at the Movies
- Arrgh Matey, Send Your Family on a Treasure Hunt
- S’more Family Fun
- Bake Your Way to a Family Fun Night
- Discover Your Inner Musician for a Family Fun Night
- Hike to a Family Fun Night
- Family Fun Night is for the Birds
- Unplug for a Family Fun Night