Play Together to Stay Together

happy family lies on bed talking laughing playing with each other
by Deborah Tyson

Estimated reading time: 4 1/2 minutes

Family time is precious and watching your children grow up can go very quickly. We can get wrapped up in other commitments such as work, fitness, social activities, community and before we know it our children are young adults! However, just by making a conscious effort to make family time a priority and schedule all other activities around it, it is possible to bring up your children and feel like you have spent an abundance of quality time with them.

Here are a few suggestions to create quality family times…

  • Working bees: Doing things together as a family, such as cleaning up the yard, promote teamwork and a shared sense of achievement. For example, before having guests over to our house, it is usually a busy time preparing food and tidying up. From when our children were very young, everyone would have an age-appropriate job to do. My son might set the table; my eldest daughter would help make the dessert, and my youngest daughter would get the cold drinks ready. When all the guests have left, we feel united, knowing we have helped to create a great experience for our friends together. We know that, as a family, we can create something more special than we could alone.
  • Creating things: As a family, we like to create things together to share the joy of making things collectively. For example, we love doing crafts, make family paintings, and every year we make a gingerbread house together.
  • Having fun: is also a part of the recipe for happy family mealtime. Parents and other adults, ideally, should try to avoid making mealtimes a place for disciplinary action, such as reprimanding or lecturing children. Addressing any issues is best done away from the dinner table, allowing you to focus on being together in a positive way.

mother and daughter playing in the afternoon

  • Exciting holidays: As a family, we love to learn about different cultures. The children embrace learning and trying out new words from different languages. Travelling has given us wonderful opportunities to spend time with animals, like elephants or dolphins, enriching our respect for the beauty of all creatures. Travelling as a family has given us many magical shared adventures.

– the family joke to which we all laugh hysterically;
– caring for another when they are not well;
– sharing a comedy TV show or animal documentary; and
– supporting with kind words and empathy as we overcome our fears/challenges;

  • Appreciating the small things: Big trips can be wonderful, but equally as important are our day-to-day experiences, where we can experience the wonder and joy of life. Of equal value and importance are:
  • Having family meals together: at least three times a week. Family meals help provide a regular, consistent opportunity to create a shared experience that is meaningful and offers a sense of belonging to all. Research has shown that regular and meaningful family meals create benefits such as:

– Allowing parents to know who their children are with, and where and when their activities are taking place. It also gives them an opportunity to monitor their children’s moods and behaviours.
– Giving children a regular structure and routine to their day, increasing their sense of security and well-being.
– A positive influence on children’s language and literacy development, as mealtime conversations can help them to learn words, understand language and how to build a conversation.
– Decreased risk of substance use, delinquency, as well as heightened personal and social well-being and better academic performance (North Dakota State University).

Ideally, eating together is the time when the family gets to relax with each other and be themselves. Mealtimes provide a forum for children to express any concerns they may have as a result of their day and get their trusted family members’ perspective on things. Ever since our children could sit at the table, with our youngest in her highchair, our family has loved family mealtimes.

This time has helped to give our family stability and tradition. When the children were very young, the meal times would often end up in raucous laughter or squeals of delight. These times, were due to an impromptu song, dance or speech, a joke told in a funny accent or my husband pretending to be the tickle monster, or that the children were “a sack of potatoes” as he threw them over his shoulder and carried them to bed.

Every Sunday evening, signifying the end of our weekend and the beginning of a new week is celebrated with a family barbeque. We all look forward to this, as it is a relaxed segway from the weekend to the week ahead.


A family that dines together stays together


playing with dog

  • The way that we do things repeatedly and the intent behind our actions is the most important thing that shapes our family culture. Do we get things for others begrudgingly or with kindness? Is there an edge of aggression or impatience to our words, or do we speak to our family members with respect?

It is natural to all have our moments when we don’t do things as well as we’d like, falling back into our old patterns of behaviour. Sometimes we are tired or just having a bad day. A healthy family environment is one where love and kindness are not the exceptions, but a way of being the majority of the time.


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