This is part 2 of a 2 part series: Part 1
Ideas for “Forced Family Fun”
At our house, we have something called “forced family fun.” That is what we call it when we rally our kids to do a family activity and it is matched with groans, complaints, or pleas to opt out. It is our light-hearted way of saying, “Yes, we are making you do this, and you will like it!” The reality is that (almost) always they do end up enjoying it, if we are willing to push through the initial responses. And forced family fun is all the more important as we are presently homebound to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In my earlier blog (read here) I reminded all of us (including myself) that we need to take advantage of this situation to build closer relationships with our kids. Instead of keeping them occupied, our goal should be to engage with them. I know many kids seem interested only in electronics or connecting with their friends, but trust me, they need you. Whether at home due to a holiday break, a free weekend, or sadly—a pandemic—there are ways to redeem that time together to connect, enjoy, and engage with your family.
Below you will find some practical ideas of how to do this. Not all will fit your lifestyle, family, your kids, or your interests, and not all of them are fun in the classic sense. But hopefully, the list demonstrates that there are ways to both connect and build relationship with your kids. There are things you can do to breakup routine, cultivate conversation, and serve others that also help bring about meaningful connection.
But first, remember there is no formula or perfect idea for these activities. As I said in my previous blog, some of my “brilliant” ideas have been a miserable failure, and some of my dumbest ideas have become long-term traditions in our home. You never know how things will work until you try.
Second, expect resistance. Our kids do not always appreciate our efforts (hence the term forced family fun) and it can be tempting to either give up or become frustrated. Ask the Lord to grant you persevering patience regardless of their attitude. I like to try to match their negative responses with humor by saying things like, “Time for forced family fun!” or “I know, I’m so sorry God gave you parents who want to spend time with you and torture you with these dumb ideas!” Being light-hearted prevents conflict and often facilitates less opposition.
We have found that it we turn off the TV and electronics, and go out on our porch to sit together, slowly our kids will join us (even if out of sheer boredom). And what started off with a great deal of groaning, turns into a 2-hour “hang out” session with snacks and drinks and good conversation.
Third, really do try to make it as enjoyable as possible. Pair an activity they might be resistant to with something that you know is enjoyable for them. For example, if your kids are grumpy because you are taking them out for a long hike, stop for dessert on the way home, or offer to do a family movie night when you return.
With that in mind, consider some of the following ideas:
- Cards or board games. Sitting around a table, face-to-face, focused on an activity is a lost gift.
- Have times in the day when all electronics cease for a period of time—parents, too.
- Take common household chores, such as cleaning bedrooms, and turn it into a contest. Offer a prize for the cleanest room.
- Provide a list of ideas for when the kids are bored (sometimes they need reminders of all the fun stuff they already have in their home) or a chore list so every time they tell you they are bored they have a chore to do.
- Have a list of projects they could do around the house to earn money.
- If possible, have a fire pit/campfire night. Serve marshmallows, play music, or a read a book out loud (even the Bible). My family likes to just hang out and talk and eat around a campfire.
- Do you have a tent? Camp overnight in the backyard.
- Read through a book or a series together. Lamplighter Ministries has both CD’s and great books for family reading.
- For those who struggle to know how to start conversations, there are great tools out there to help. You can search online for “Table Topics,” a cube-shaped box of questions you can ask throughout the day or around a family meal. There are also apps you can download on your phone that can help you begin family discussions.
- Have an age-appropriate book reading contest.
- Look for positive, redemptive or wholesome movies to watch together. There is a streaming service called RedeemTV and websites like Kids-in-Mind.com that can help you make these selections.
- Look for online Bible studies, sermons for teens, or YouTube clips that get older kids to laugh, think, and express their opinions. YouTube “the Skit Guys,” and other humorous or inspiring stories.
- Enter into your kids’ hobbies or interests: offer to play a video game with your child or teen. They really love beating you at their favorite game!
- Color (adults too!) while you listen to a sermon, or audio book, CD or story.
- Brainstorm ways to serve others: write letters to cousins, grandparents, shut-ins. Offer to bake or write notes to your mail carrier, UPS deliverer, teachers, or church leaders. Offer to pick up sticks in the neighbor’s yard, or run errands for them.
Whatever you try, make it applicable to your home, community, and your kids. Teach them the value of serving, spending time together, and trying things that they thought were silly, but found they could enjoy. Remember, this is an opportunity for all of us to grow in engaging our kids. My hope is that as life returns to normal, this will spark a desire for this to become our “new normal.”
This is part two of a two part series: Part 1