Family matters

Strengthen the ties that keep us together – and have fun!

By Donna Fleming

How often do you include “spend more quality time with my family” as a New Year’s resolution? And how often do you get to the end of the year and find you haven’t managed to achieve that?

Our hectic lifestyles today mean it can be really tricky to find the time to just hang out with our partner and kids.

You have to be organised and actually set aside a chunk of your busy week to do that – it’s no good just hoping to squeeze in a few minutes here and there.

Here are some ideas to help you spend that all-important time with your family.

Get out of the house

When you’re at home there are too many things to distract you and the kids from spending time in each other’s company. Going out together gets you away from distractions and forces you to talk to each other.

You could do an activity you all like, such as bike riding, hiking or kicking a ball around a park. Look for events in your area everyone might enjoy, such as school fairs, farmers’ markets, free concerts and exhibitions.

Go on a magical mystery tour

Once a month we put aside a weekend afternoon to go exploring in areas of the city where we live – particularly places we haven’t been before – and we call it our “magical mystery tour”. We take it in turns to choose where to go, and sometimes we have no idea where we’ll end up until we’re in the car and flicking through the pages of a map.

If the weather is nice we take a picnic and we always keep items such as a Frisbee, ball and pétanque set in the boot of the car so there are things to do when we reach our destination. The drive there and back is part of the fun – we have a singalong or play games including I Spy.

turn off the tv and Have a games night

Set aside one night a week to turn off the television and play games together. Board games, cards and charades are great for people of all ages and so are active video games, such as playing on the Wii. Doing a jigsaw together can also lead to enjoying each other’s company.

Work on a project

Not only do you get to spend quality time with each other, but you will get immense satisfaction out of achieving a goal. Projects can include everything from planting and looking after a herb or vegetable garden through to putting photos in albums (this can be done together online or even the old-fashioned way). Most kids love baking or you may be able to convince them to help out with dinner.

Arts and crafts are also popular and if you can afford the expense, decorating their bedroom together can be a bonding experience.

You may also find they enjoy helping out with gardening or DIY around the house – my daughter still talks about how much she loved helping her dad put together the new barbecue, and now she’s pretty handy with a screwdriver.

Eat together

If you really struggle to find time to hang out as a family thanks to work, school and extra-curricular activities, the least you can do is make the effort to eat together. Many families don’t actually sit down at a dining table at the same time, and if they do, they often don’t talk to each other because they’re watching television. Make a point of having dinner together, with the TV switched off, and have a conversation about your day. It’s also a great way to know what’s going on in their lives.

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