Tips for Family Fun Night
Children who have strong relationships with their parents often weather the storms of adolescence with more resilience than kids who lack the guidance loving adults can offer. Family Fun Night can be a wonderful way for parents and children to bond and help keep relationships strong.Here are some basic tips for keeping the "Fun" in Family Fun Night.
- Make expectations clear ahead of time. Communicate as openly as possible and explain your position from the beginning, so the kids know exactly where you stand. For example, if your teenagers are inclined to fuss, make sure you lay the boundaries down before the fun begins to keep the conflict at a minimum. If the next day is a school day, you may want to remind the kids that bedtime is still in place. If you choose cooking a new food, everyone has to try it and be supportive.
- Choose things to do that are fun for the whole family. If you love experiences like museums but your kids are too young to appreciate them, the events will fly like lead balloons. This doesn’t mean that you can’t push your children out of their comfort zone. A child may think he doesn’t want to go camping but then find it is second only to Disney World. However, you do need to remember to take everyone’s personalities, interests, and tolerance levels into account. Some popular choices for family fun nights are having a family game night, having a family movie night, or taking an outing together. Interactive video games can be a winner, as well. More and more, games are targeting both adults and children, and the classic board games, such as Monopoly, Sorry!, and Scrabble, are even making their way to the television screen. You may want to try picking a game you loved as a kid and sharing it with your children in the video game format. You can even find very inexpensive but fun Family Fun Night activities.
- If your kids are reluctant to get involved with the whole family fun thing, let them have a hand in choosing activities. They may even push you out of your comfort zone, and you may find you actually enjoy it. I was not enthusiastic when my family first got the Wii. Why would I want to jump around the living room like a maniac just to move characters on a screen? But, to my surprise, I actually fell in love with it. Now, the Wii is my son's first choice when it is his turn to choose our Family Night activity.
- If you choose to go on an outing for your evening, make sure the children know that hand held video games, cell phones, and iPods will not be allowed. The point is to interact as a family, not engage in isolation like a little bubble in the middle of a crowd. You may need to be prepared for the kids to be less than thrilled with this rule, if your kids are gadget-aholics. Susie may want to text her BFF and Tommy may want to defeat the latest boss, but BFF’s and bosses are not members of the family. Once they put the gadgets away and get involved, they will be surprised how much fun they can have without them.
- If you have kids that struggle with conflict management, you may want to avoid competitive activities for the first little while. Some children are very poor losers, until they reach a certain level of maturity. Board games, for example, may seem like a lot of family fun, until shouts of “You cheated!” echo across the room. Save the win/lose, family game night situations until they get the spirit of family fun night, sticking with movies, outings, cooking, and the like. Add in competitions to encourage good sportsmanship as they grow.
- Pick a night that works for everyone. A dating teenager may resent a Friday night obligation, and you may be too drained after work on a Monday or Thursday night. Some families find that a Tuesday or Wednesday works best, as it breaks up the work week. Others may find that a Sunday afternoon or night works best and is an opportunity to recharge before the Monday rush hour. And you can be flexible, too. Perhaps you will choose to let your kids pick one night of the weekend for going out and the other for family.
- Finally, make sure you keep your expectations in check. The phrase "Family Fun Night" conjures up images of laughing, giggling children being hugged by smiling parents. And that can, and will, happen. But, kids aren’t perfect. Children get grumpy when they are hungry or tired, so if you choose an outing, make sure there is an opportunity to fill up and sack out. Little ones may just not have the stamina to keep up. And if little Timmy and Tammy tend to argue all the time at home, they are going to squabble in the middle of the fun. Don’t expect everything to work perfectly from the beginning. Keep in mind that the word “childish” has “child” in it for a reason, and don’t expect children to react in a mature manner the first time they lose a game or don’t get their way. It is a learning process, so roll with the punches and keep your sense of humor!
A Family Fun Night can breathe enthusiasm and enjoyment into your family, with beaming parents and giggling kids. Or it can be a recipe for conflict and disaster with glaring parents and squabbling kids! To keep the smiles going and avoid the fussing, just make sure to keep your sense of adventure and remember to laugh. You will build memories for years to come.