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By Jen Murphy

“The time goes by so fast!” is a common phrase out of my mother’s mouth. In fact, she says it so much that it gets annoying, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.

There are so many things that demand our time – work, school, household chores, appointments – that the day-to-day schedule can seem overwhelming. And once the weekend arrives, there are kids’ sports, birthday parties, more chores, and if you’re lucky, social commitments. Then the week starts all over again! So where does quality time with family fit in?

The benefits of spending time together as a family include: better academic performance, overall socio-emotional health, lower risk for drug abuse and sexual activity, and the list goes on. So as we are preparing for our youngest child to enter high school, my husband and I have realized that our family needs to spend time together outside of everyday commitments.

Three months ago, we decided to start “Sunday Funday” at our house. It’s a promise we’ve made as a family to spend time together each Sunday doing something fun. Each of us takes a turn planning an activity, and if it costs any money, the kids check to see if their idea fits that week’s budget. And it’s been wonderful. We have visited museums, walked on the beach, hiked through the woods, played board games, watched movies at home and at the theatre, cooked special meals together, and even created masterpiece paintings to hang around the house.

More importantly, though, there’s been a change in the overall family dynamic that we weren’t expecting. Since the Sunday Funday gives us the opportunity to interact with one another on a personal level, and in a more relaxed and unstructured way, we have started to have more “real” interactions and more natural conversations than we had during the work/school week. My kids will bring up issues at the dinner table. They will engage in healthy debates and express their opinions. They offer information about what’s going on in their lives.

I’m not saying this weekly activity has cured all of our problems and that we are now a perfect family, but the opportunity to interact with one another without an agenda has strengthened relationships and given us a strategy for balance.

Here are some ideas you might try with your family:

Volunteer together. Find a local pet shelter and gather needed supplies to deliver directly to those cute, cuddly creatures.
Play in your backyard or at a local park. Throw the football, play a soccer game, pitch the ball and see who can hit the most balls, etc.
Go camping. Pitch a tent in your backyard, roast marshmallows in the fire pit, and look at constellations. (If the ground gets too hard, the campout can even move inside so everyone can sleep in their own beds!)
Discover geocaching. Download a geocaching app and search for geocaches wherever you are.
Explore the world. Spin the globe or pick the name of a country out of a hat and cook a meal from that region. Play a game from that country.
• Bake cookies. Make your favorite cutouts and decorate, or just do slice-and-bake and enjoy a good conversation.
Play cards, do a puzzle, or play a board game!

 

What other family activities do you enjoy?

Jen Murphy is a working mom with two teenagers. She has more than 20 years of experience working with at-risk youth and is a former middle school teacher. She and her family love living in northern Michigan with their chickens, goats, and bees.

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