You already know that spending time with your family strengthens your bond, but you might be surprised to learn that it has other scientifically proven benefits! Below, we’ll discuss all the reasons why you should make family time a priority this summer, and all year long. Then I’ll give you some ideas that can fit into any schedule.
Proven Benefits of Spending Time Together as a Family
From helping you communicate better with your infants to giving your teenagers the tools they need for success, here are some of the most powerful and PROVEN benefits of spending time together as a family.
1. The family that travels together stays together
An interesting study done by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that families who travel together aren’t just more bonded than their counterparts, but also that couples were less likely to divorce when they took vacations with their kids. By the way, “traveling” doesn’t have to mean “getting on a plane and heading off to an exotic locale.” It can be something as simple as hopping on a bus and taking a free walking tour of your town. The key is to just experience a new place together. So, don’t let money stop you from reaping this benefit.
2. Family vacations make your kids smarter
True story! You can learn more about it here, but long story short, experts confirm that taking vacations together boosts your children’s brain power! It makes sense if you think about it. Anything that shakes up your usual routine gives your brain a chance to learn something totally new.
3. That post-vacation glow is contagious!
Experts found that people who come home from vacation feeling all relaxed and happy help spread those good feelings to others around them. What does that mean for you as a family? Basically, you’ll be feeding off each other’s positive energy and helping those happy vibes remain long after you’ve put away the last of your vacation laundry.
4. Just eating dinner together can keep your teen on the right track
Those that can’t get away for a long vacation (or even a quick weekend getaway), take heart. This study (which is actually a study of multiple studies) found that, in families that eat dinner together regularly, teens were less likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs. According to researchers, “Young people whose families routinely eat meals together spend more time on homework and reading for pleasure Frequent family meals have also been related to better nutritional intake and a decreased risk for unhealthy weight control practices, substance use, sexual intercourse, and suicidal involvement.”
5. Spending time with you is important for your teen’s well-being
Speaking of teens, a 2012 Penn State University study found two interesting things. First, despite being famous for their independent streak, most teens today do continue to spend time with their families. Second- and most important- the time they share with their parents and other adult caregivers is actually very important for their overall well-being.
Susan McHale, professor of human development and the director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State, explains, “The stereotype that teenagers spend all their time holed up in their rooms or hanging out with friends is, indeed, just a stereotype. Our research shows that, well into the adolescent years, teens continue to spend time with their parents and that this shared time, especially shared time with fathers, has important implications for adolescents’ psychological and social adjustment.”
6. Getting outdoors together helps your child focus better
Research shows that just spending 20 minutes outdoors together helps improve your child’s overall concentration. It makes sense if you think about it because you’re giving them screen-free time to use their own imaginations and really connect with the world around them. Plus, there’s just something about fresh air to chase away brain fog and invigorate your mind, body, and spirit.
7. Spending time with your kids makes you more compassionate
Family time isn’t just great for your kids, it can make YOU a better adult. At least, that’s what one series of experiments found. Adults who spend time with children are kinder, more compassionate, and more generous. As clinical psychologist, Desreen N. Dudley told VeryWell, “The suggestion is that children may hold the key to influencing more positive decisions that adults make that can benefit society as a whole.”
8. Quality time helps moms learn to communicate with babies better
If you’re suffering from major mom guilt because you can’t figure out why your newborn is crying, this may help ease your mind. Moms do not have an innate ability to decipher their baby’s cries, according to this Cell Press study. It’s actually something we have to learn, and the only way we can really do that is to spend time with our babies. That doesn’t mean you can’t work outside the home or ever leave your infant’s side, though, so don’t take it the wrong way. That way leads to even more guilt! To me, it means being present when you’re with your baby, and spending some one-on-one time bonding.
Now that you know why you should spend time together as a family, let’s take a look at some ways to fit it into your schedule.
Five Fun Things to Do With Your Kids
Whether you have a whole two weeks to get out of town or just a few hours to spend together each week, these ideas will give you a chance to bond and reap the benefits of family time! There is nothing better than spending time with your loved one and creating memories that will last a lifetime.
1. Maximize your family vacations
Taking a family vacation is one of the best ways to really reap the benefits of family time because you’re more focused on each other. Maximize those benefits by also taking a vacation from your phone, social media, and other distractions.
You can use your phone to look up directions or take pictures if you don’t have a “regular” camera, but that’s it. Speaking of pictures, definitely take some, but don’t spend your entire vacation looking through the lens of a camera. Remember that you don’t have to share every single moment on social media. The idea is to be wholly present!
2. Plan a staycation right in your own town
Can’t afford to go out of town? A week-long staycation is a great alternative. If you can swing it, book a hotel room for the full “vacation” experience. If you can’t, don’t worry, you can “staycation” right in your own home. Either way, take a week and act like a tourist in your town, visiting attractions that you’ve just never gotten around to seeing.
You will discover new things about your town or nearby cities. You don’t need to go far to have new family experiences, the idea is to do it together. Oh, and remember that the same phone and social media rules above apply!
3. Try “surprise destination” day trips
If a full week together is totally off the table, break your family time up into smaller chunks and plan weekend or day trips. Make it fun by keeping the destination a secret from your kids and giving them clues along the way. For example, if you’re planning a day trip to Disney World, you can give them a Disney book to color on the ride.
4. Set aside an hour or two after dinner for family time
Even if you’re able to go on vacation together, you should still set some time aside throughout the rest of the summer as designated family time. Try eating dinner outside when it’s nice out, then linger in the backyard and play some games.
On rainy days, stay at the dining room table and take turns telling stories or talking about your day. Family dinners are so important and even have scientific benefits. Did you know that eating family dinner 4 times a week makes kids more successful? It’s true! Family dinners make kids more successful and healthier.
5. Plan weekly “family date nights”
What do you do when your schedules are so insane between work, sports, and other obligations that it’s impossible to carve out even an hour or two a night to spend together? Make family date nights, of course! Pick one night a week and completely unplug from distractions.
While an occasional movie night is okay, try to choose activities that allow you to interact as a family. Cooperative board games like Kingdomino or Outfoxed are fun for younger kids. With these games, you and your kids play against the board instead of each other. For older kids and adults, try charades, Pictionary, and other games that get their creative juices flowing.
When it comes to family bonding activities, it’s not always about how much time you have, but how you spend the time. Remember that there is always time for “family time” if you make it a priority. No matter how busy your life is, set aside the time to bond and share with your loved ones. Quality time with your family will always be the best time.
Even just spending 5 minutes with your kids can improve your bond
What if you’re working multiple jobs just to keep your family afloat and can’t really dedicate days, or even hours, to playtime? Are you and your kids just out of luck? Absolutely not, according to Roger Harrison (a Nemours Children’s Health pediatric psychologist). As he explains to NPR, even just spending 5 minutes playing with your kids can help them become better listeners. He calls it “special time,” and says,
“Special time increases opportunities for closeness between a parent and child. As that attachment is building, it increases the likelihood that a child is going to listen or value what a parent has to say.”
So, whether you’re going away together for two weeks or just carving out two hours a week or even if you only have 5 minutes a day, as long as you remain focused on each other, you’ll reap the rewards!