Any activity that gets you talking, laughing and/or playing together as a family can strengthen communication among family members. Choosing activities together allows each family member to have some input, promoting cooperation and negotiation. However, as much as you might want everyone to agree on the activities, there will be times when you won't all agree. Use these times to teach your kids lessons in compromise and respect.
Scheduling a weekly family awards night can help build a positive, trusting and encouraging environment. For the awards, choose something the kids enjoy such as stickers or favorite candy bars. On awards night, recognize each family member for three positive accomplishments such as being kind to a sibling, taking out the garbage or acing a test. After receiving an award, have the family speak about his accomplishments and say something positive about other family members.
Families spend good portions of their time rushing around. As a result, communication often suffers. Baseball games, dance classes, homework assignments and conflicting work schedules can disrupt simple family routines like eating dinner together. Try planning family "dates." Enter an official family date on the calendar where everyone can see it. The date can be anything from going to see a movie together to spending an afternoon at the park. Explain to all the family members that everyone must keep the "date" unless an emergency arises. According to the Utah State University Extension, family dates help strengthen relationships within the family not only because they give family members a chance to share activities, but also because they give all family members something to which they can look forward. If dates for the entire family are difficult to schedule, you can arrange dates on a smaller scale -- such as a date with one parent and one child, or a date with an older and younger sibling.
Adapted from Jamie Miller's "10-Minute Life Lessons For Kids," and an imaginative yet informative activity for the whole family, is the mock interview. For this activity, the adults or older siblings in the family can dress up as newspaper reporters, complete with a hat, badge and overcoat if available -- and learn as much as possible about the younger children in the family who are can act as the "celebrities." Some ideas for questions might include asking their favorite colors, favorite foods, fears, what makes them sad or happy and how they would spend a day off from school if they could do anything they wanted. Take notes -- and the younger children will gain a feeling of importance from the undivided attention. You can also switch roles and have the younger children act as the reporters and ask questions of their older siblings and parents.
The quality and quantity of time family members spend together is essential to building and maintaining strong communication, according to a publication by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, "Strengthening Family Relationships." Working together at household chores or yard work opens up the lines of communication and may help create fun, laughter and fond memories. This might not happen right away, but if you lead your family towards more togetherness and increased communication, the children will likely adapt and learn to enjoy the time. Additional family activities can include, but certainly aren't limited to, going to church together, family game night and creating family traditions around birthdays and holidays.
- 10-Minute Life Lessons For Kids: Jamie Miller
- Advocates For Youth: Strengthening Family Relationships
- Utah State University Extension: Helping Youth Succeed: Strengthening Family Ties