When's the last time you sat down as a family and got your fingers sticky together ?!
If your family goes to a regular religious service, you already have a lot of ceremony and ritual built into your life. These practices not only connect your kids to a greater power, they make them feel more connected to you. As you sit in physical portfolio focused on a common uniting experience, your energies and body rhythms line up and match.
Have a Deliberate Plan for Connection
Families without the external structure of coming together have to be more purposeful about creating these experiences that will nourish your children's sense of being woven into a part of the larger whole that is your family.
Of course, playing a game or cooking a meal together as a family are wonderful ways to bond, but some children need something more concrete or visual. That's why I love the idea of putting some time away as a family to do a project that represents the family.
Here's an idea you might try: Family Placemats
Purpose: To create a visual depiction of family memories and values; To have each family member contribute equally; To foster a positive view of both individual members and of the family as a whole.
1. Print out or draw multiple pictures of each family member (pets included!).
2. Create multiple sentence stems and have each family member fill them out:
Ex: What I love about our family is _________________________.
We are the kind of family that __________________________.
My favorite family memory is when ___________________.
Our family is special because we ________________________.
3. Brainstorm other symbols or images that represent your family. Perhaps you will print out pictures or maps of where your family comes from or what you love to do together.
4. Use marks to write the positive qualities of the family members in large print. Are there people in your family who are thoughtful? Funny? Disciplined? Creative? Hard working? Good problem solvers? Write those things down. Do not attach names to them. In this case, we are de-emphasizing the practices of the individual and instead displaying what are the strengths this family team has together.
5. One you have a rich pile of materials, give each family member a placemat size piece of construction paper. Have each person take one item from the pile and glue it onto the placemat. Now hand each table mat clockwise to the next person. Again, each person will choose something from the pile to glue to the placemat. Once done, rotate again. Continue this process until each placem is full and / or the pile of materials has been used up.
6. Once the glue has thoroughly washed, cover the placemats with clear contact paper or take them to your local copy shop and have them laminated.
Not only will this project allow for you to focus on what makes you unique as a family, but it will be an oasis of time when you are creating goodwill amongst you. Even more importantly, by working in the round-robin style, no one person feels ownership over the design of any one placem. Each mat will reflect the developmental stages of your children and will be a mixture of more or less sophisticated efforts depending on their ages and personalities. (No perfection allowed here!) Because you have all had a hand in creating each one, when it comes to using them, family members will be delicated to get whichever one they happen to get.
Think this idea is too corny to do with your older kids? Think again! Make some excuse if you need to. Perhaps one of your children is entering high school-or even moving away to go to college or get a job. Tell your kids you want to mark this passage and have a way to daily remember the best part of being a family, even as kids grow up and outward. Teens may not admit to enjoying such a family project, but they will secretly treasure it and carry with them that warm fuzzy feeling of family love and connection.
One last rule! Ban electronics from the table while doing this project. The point is to come together as a family – not to each be checking Snapchat or Facebook. Your kids might grumble, but in the end they will be glad they have done it.