Flashback to late July – I’d come home from my office, we’d eat dinner together as a family, talk a bit, clean up…. and then we’d all head off to separate devices. For screen time.
Slowly but surely, this had become our summer weekday evening: my 13-year-old would be at his desk in front of his computer for an hour of screen time, my 11-year-old daughters would be playing a game on the tablet or on the family computer playing Minecraft, my husband would be on his phone recuperating, reading about finance or watching something on Netflix. So I’d turn on the TV to watch the Great British Bake Off or some other favorite show of mine.
During the week we were living together physically, but hardly living together, connected as a family.
Truthfully it had become rather lonely, and I knew it wasn’t good for the kids or for us. So one July evening after seeing us heading down this same path again, I asked everyone to come to the living room for a family meeting.
I explained the situation and said, “We need to come up with something to do at home after dinner as a family. What could we do that you think would be fun? What can each of us contribute?”
I can’t remember the exact brainstorm, but I DO remember that:
- my husband came up with a Challenge Question for his activity,
- my youngest daughter volunteered to pick out and bring a game – board game or otherwise – for us to play,
- my oldest daughter decided to tell a joke or riddle each time,
- my son agreed to make an after dinner snack and provide a tech tip, and
- I decided to share something I’ve learned – a ‘how to’.
- My mother would share a story about what life was like when she was growing up in the ’40s.
We worked out that every family member needed to contribute SOMETHING – it wasn’t going to be me or Dad deciding what we do, as that could become a chore or obligation pretty fast. We’d each pick something that was fun for US, which meant at least part of the evening wouldn’t feel boring. Everyone got pretty engaged, as they’d decided on their own contribution!
So the next night, after dinner, my husband started it off with his Challenge Question:
If you could create a new official holiday, what would it be and when?
Which launched us into a whimsical, creative conversation about Purple Day, and Read a Book Day, and Minecraft Day…It’s the kind of question for which there is no right answer and it’s answerable by all ages.
Next, my daughter told us a riddle which we all tried to guess, we played a round of Apples to Apples, ate some fruit and crackers, and learned a bit more about Pokemon Go from my son. Mom talked about having a big block of ice in the ‘icebox,’ and having milk delivered daily when she was little. I talked about “HOW TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH ANYONE,” and went through a mnemonic on topics to ask about, based on Dale Carnegie’s book.
And it was GREAT! We had so much fun. We connected, learned new things, asked questions. Everyone got to be in charge of at least one part of family time. We appreciated each other’s sense of humor, we were silly…
We’re still doing it.
We have family time probably 3-4 times a week now, depending on schedules. Sometimes it’s 30 minutes, sometimes it’s a couple of hours. And it keeps changing! Some of the variations that have come in:
- My son showed us a funny video – and we learned how to use our Smart TV (DID YOU KNOW that there’s a little button in the Youtube app on your phone that will make it play on your Smart TV if you push it??? Had no idea, and we’ve had that TV for years)
- We had a story/writing session – each of us had to write a story to read aloud – where my youngest daughter blew us all away with her powerpoint story + props + soundtrack
- We guess Family Feud surveys together (using the daily Family Feud calendar)
- A couple of times we’ve baked cookies together for the snack
- Tonight we’re trying a read aloud of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe, suggested by my son
I’m loving our family times as we’re deepening relationships with each other, having fun, and getting a chance to develop communication and collaboration skills, experiment with learning…And I say we probably love each other even more now.
I’m pleased with myself! Hah! But really it wasn’t rocket science, and the credit goes to my family. I put the Family Time framework out there, and they delivered the juicy goods that get us laughing, loving, entertaining and appreciating one another.
And you might like the 6 Ideas for Skill Building – At Home including Family Time, which you can download.