The Perks of…Family Night

Hello Readers!  I want you to imagine that it’s a typical Friday night.  Let’s say it’s mid-January, a cold night with nothing particular going on.  Where are you?  Where are your kids?  And your spouse?  What is everyone doing?  Better yet, what aren’t you doing?

Chances are, you see yourself watching the latest episode of Scandal, from your DVR, with a glass of wine and your phone in hand, mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed.  And your kids are probably doing the same thing with their own phones, minus the wine.  Now, sit back and ask yourself what your relationship with your kids would be like in this scenario.  Are you happy with your relationship with your kids and your spouse?  What about right now?  What’s your relationship with your family?  Could it be better.  Most likely, the answer to this question is “yes.”  That’s because we all feel that way, even yours truly.

Instead, imagine this scenario:  it’s a Friday night in mid-January.  It’s cold outside, and there’s snow on the ground.  But inside your home it’s warm and inviting.  Your family sits down to play Sorry!, a game chosen by your youngest since it’s their Family Night to choose the game.  Everyone sits down to play—even your spouse—and everyone is happy.  Everyone is smiling, and everyone is having a great time.  The phones aren’t in your faces.  The TV is off for the first night all week, and you couldn’t be happier about it.

Guess what: this can really happen, and right now is a great time to start a Family Night routine!  I know; I keep saying that now is the best time for almost everything, and I know some of you may disagree with me that it’s too busy to start any new routines or plans.  But I say this because I do believe this is the best time due to the craziness of your schedule right now.  Everything is up in the air, and everyone fees little off.  Your kids have new teachers, new studies, and a new class environment to learn.  You have new schedules and routines to iron out.  Starting Family Night now, while everyone is adjusting to a new school year, will help you and your family maintain this routine in the coming year.  Because you are establishing your routines now, adding this event while trying to get into a new flow will help you retain this new habit, and by January you may find yourself enjoying the good old Family Night with your kiddos.

So, what does it take to establish a Family Night?  Well, it’s simple: plan it in your calendar.  Find one night of the week on which your family regularly is available to do something together.  A night that can be dedicated to quality time as a family and bonding time between family members.  It could be Friday nights, when most community events take place.  It could be Sunday evenings, when most people are preparing for a new week of work and school.  It could be a Wednesday night—Hump Day—when your week is halfway through and you are looking for a reason to “celebrate”.  Even though we have a baby, we still maintain our Family Night on Sundays; we typically visit my in-laws for dinner.  However, it is one night of the week that we plan on spending time together as a family.

And what do you do on Family Night?  The sky is almost the limit.  You can attend community events—some of them for free.  You can plan on movies, allowing each member of your family to choose a movie in sequence each week.  You can plan a game night, and each member of your family takes a turn choosing a new game each week.  You can plan on taking walks, or going on short hikes, or doing some team activity—such as bowling—each week for your Family Night.  The point to Family Night is not the event but the bonding opportunity and the quality time spent as a family.

This means, however, that every family member needs to leave electronics and screens relatively out of the equation.  No smart phones. No TV for idle watching.  No computers.  The purpose behind the event is to engage and bond with one another.  Now, sometimes it will involve a movie, if you should choose that route.  But the movies should be family-oriented.  And just like at the theaters, all phones should be turned off (or silenced and in another room).  This is an opportunity to show your kiddos that family is important.  Besides, would you rather your child look back on their childhood years and remember the fun Family Nights or remember what happened on How to Get Away with Murder?  For my sake, I do hope you, too, have chosen the first option.

So, if you have thought that you would like to implement Family Night in your family’s weekly routine, it’s probably a good idea to decide what and when.  The what can be flexible, and I will get to that in a second.  The when is very important, and you should get your family involved.  First, map out your weekly schedules and pick a couple of nights during the week that would be relatively open for Family Night.  Now, during the holidays or during special events, this might change; and that’s fine.  The important part is to find a couple of nights that might work.  Then, ask your family what they think.  By including them, it helps to reinforce the idea of Family Night and it helps your family become a part of it. Including your family in choosing the day of the week also helps it become their choice, too, and they will most likely be more open and willing to enjoy the event if they feel they have a voice or a role in the plans.

And it’s also a good time to ask what activity they would like to do each week.  Just like with choosing the day of the week, the more your family feels they have a choice or that their opinions matter the more willing they may be to participate and become a part of the event.  And, just like with selecting the dates, I would also recommend choosing a couple of options for your family to choose from and present them with choices of activities.  As anyone with small children can attest, you are much more likely to achieve results or get a definitive answer if you offer choices rather than just saying “What do you want”.  So, for instance, you way think that your family might be best suited for either community events, game nights, or a skating night—be it roller skating or ice skating.  Instead of asking your family what they think would be a good option—and, thus, getting either sarcastic remarks or inappropriate/non inclusive options—offering pre-selected choices helps families narrow down their focus and still be a part of the decision making process.

Keep in mind that the event can change.  Let’s say your family chooses to do “community events” each week, and you start with a new event to attend each week—even going to your local zoos or museums when local events thin out.  But in November you discover that your family has done as much as they can, given the schedule of events and options, and you don’t wish to repeat your visits to the museum nor to the zoo.  You may wish to ask your family for their input and offer different options—such as Movie Night or Game Night.  You may decide, as a family, to revisit museums or neighboring town events instead.  It’s up to you.  The important part about Family Night is your family and connecting as a family.

Personally, I look back on my own childhood with memories of Family Nights and family events.  Our Family Nights centered on various activities as my sister and I grew up and our interests changed.  But I will always remember connecting with my family and learning about each other in different ways.  I will always remember the memories my parents shared with me, as well as the stories my grandparents told me of their lives.  And I hope to pass the same experiences to my own child and any future children.  So, tell me Readers, do you remember any Family Nights with your family?  If so, what sort of activities do you remember with your family?  And what sort of activities do you think your family would like right now?

Until next time,

-BBM

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