A family that plays together… has a lot of fun. Remember when your kids were young, under age six or so? Did you play with them, read books to them, spend time with them just doing random things that made them smile and laugh? Fast forward to the adolescent years, how do we continue to cultivate a solid relationship with our teens? Unfortunately for many families, as our children enter young adulthood, we lose touch with them and gradually grow apart. But it doesn’t have to be this way, we can use family play to maintain and even deepen our relationships with our older children, here is how we do it.
Playing Away from Home
This past weekend, my wife and I attended the Austin Lindy Exchange (ALX) with our older children (14, 15, 17 and 20). The annual ALX is a 4 day dancing event that includes live music, swing dancing (Lindy Hop), midnight snacks, and dancing until near dawn. My wife and I really like to dance, and swing dancing is a lot of fun, but I am not sure this is something we would have done if we didn’t have older children who also wanted to attend. The real fun for us was spending time with our children, dancing a few dances with them and watching them have a great time socializing with some other very nice swing dancers. Our children have learned to love dancing as much as we do. Our oldest has been going to dances regularly over the past few years and it was really fun to see how much she has improved and dare I say, I believe my daughter is a better dancer than I am! We have also been known to travel just to find a family friendly dance such as polka dancing at the Shiner Catholic Church Picnic, Cajun dancing in Louisiana or live music at county fairs.
Playing at Home
We regularly do less strenuous activities, like playing card games, dominoes, farkle or board games. We don’t limit our play to just our children, we love having their friends join us too. We are not trying to be their best friends, we are still their parents, but that doesn’t prevent us from enjoying each other’s company in a social setting, many of our kid’s friends at ALX know us and more than one person came up to us and said how wonderful it was that we were there with our family.
Playing games together is a very powerful way to bond with someone. On the surface playing games provides an opportunity to be together and interact with other people all around the common set of rules that constitute a given game. On a deeper level, when we play with others, for a moment, we are on the same level, even if that person is a bit older or younger, partaking in a game changes the normal rules of life and takes us into an alternate environment where everyone has an equal chance to win. When we play with someone, we are saying that we like to spend time with them, that we enjoy their company, that we share similar interests and that we can have fun together regardless of differences in age, physical or mental abilities, or interests.
What to play?
The choice of the play activity is pretty important, as I mentioned previously, for little kids it is pretty easy to pick an activity, but as our children grow up we have to become more creative. Some families might enjoy playing sports together, making music or even role playing games. The idea is to find something that we can all participate in and enjoy. Some things we do with the entire family and other times we subdivide the children and do things with just the younger kids or just the older ones. We like swimming together as well as biking and hiking. The goal is to create lasting memories of being together to build the bonds of trust and leave open the lines of communication. The time invested in the relationship with your children will prove to be very helpful when life gets hard and they need someone to talk to. We as parents want our children to believe we are there for them and playing with them helps to communicate that message.
A Family that Plays together….
My wife and I have nine children ranging in age from 4 to 20. We still play with all of them, it is one of our secrets to having a happy family with good kids. It is not enough to feed, clothe, discipline, and transport them, we also need to get to know them, their likes and dislikes, their sorrows and their joys. We need to cultivate a healthy community life within our family, which includes recreation. I posted a picture on Facebook from the dance and added the comment, “A Family that Play together …” and received a comment from a friend finishing the thought with “parties together”, and this is true, but it got me thinking about how I would complete the sentence. A Family that plays together stays together, has fun together, and loves each other.
What do you think? Is family play an important part of your family life? Do you find family play more important in the early years or the adolescent years? What challenges prevent you from playing with your children?