If common wisdom is to be believed, the indicator of a healthy family is one that sits down together for dinner every day.
Ho hum. Eating dinner is fine, but if we’re going to hang our family reputations on the type of quality time we spend together, let’s aim for more than spaghetti at six. Here are a few family activities recommended by my social network.
Make a list
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again here: the family that fails to plan, plans to fail. Enter the family wish list. Family members can contribute their individual hopes and dreams and together compile a wish list of things they want to do together as kin.
Build a garden, hike the Chilkoot Trail, star in your own 9-season reality TV show. Setting goals and targets will help a family budget and plan for the coming years.
Why not get serious about spending some time together and take a month off school and work? Heck, take a year. Travelling together is a great option, but spending a month together at home and in your community, free from the pressures of work and school, can be equally valuable and enjoyable. This time will be particularly precious as children get older and spend more and more time in programs and with friends.
Work on a project
Working together can bring out unique qualities in relationships. Just think about relaxed nature of conversation when you are working alongside someone, or the shared satisfaction of finishing a large or difficult project.
As family, consider choosing a project to tackle together. Dig a big hole, paint the deck, re-decorate a room. Don’t turn it into a chore, but find something that everyone can get motivated about.
My friend Lewis claims his family once took a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle on vacation. It was so big they had to break it into sections then reassemble it with every move. There was undoubtedly high fives all around when that vacation was over.
This is a subset of the above. Grow a garden, raise some chickens, get a pig. Granted, there’s always going to be the big end-of-life shocker, but really, what could be more profound for a family than to witness the cycle of life together?
Families often have a designated documentarian—the person who takes the photos, makes the scrapbook, writes the family newsletter. Instead, find ways of sharing in the documentary experience. Use your iPads to create a family video, for example.
For a more tactile experience, use a good old fashioned scrapbook to write stories and save objects. This helps everyone create the family narrative, which might also be valuable in refuting claims of favouratism and settling old arguments.
Make your family bigger
Families are not always related to you by blood. You can reap the benefits of a big family—love, support, home baking– by extending the bounds of your family to include the community of people around you — such as neighbours, friends, colleagues.
If you meet someone who has no family, politely ascertain whether they are interested in abandoning the orphan lifestyle, then proceed to treat them like one of your own – just without the passive aggression.
Do good works
There’s no end to the number of volunteer activities a family can do together in the Yukon. Consider signing up to do a weekend soup kitchen, build trails, or fill sandbags together. Just make sure you’re doing good works for each other already.
Failing all of the above, a rousing game of Happy Families will do. Happy National Family Week!
Glenda Koh can often be found on the losing end of four-sibling Scrabble game.