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Family Bonding: 3 Helpful Reminders When It Feels Like Family Bondage

family bonding

Family bonding is a wonderful thing under normal circumstances. Spending time together with family is simply irreplaceable; it's how we make memories that our children will carry warmly for many years to come. Be it family game nights, Sunday night dinners, or just "Tuesday mornings with Dad," -- things your kids can count on -- they all can be a magical part of the familial bond.

These weeks are hard, though. We're out of our comfort zone. This isn't just quality time; it's quantity time. A whole lot of it. As much as we hate to admit it, we can do only so many things together before we crave a little peace and quiet. It's human nature. And there's no shame in feeling that way -- science says silence helps us regenerate our brain cells.

How can you enjoy family bonding when it starts to feel like family bondage—and it feels like too much of a good thing? 

  • 1. Be fully present in whatever your family members are doing together for 10 minutes at a time.

Sometimes, when we spend time with others but wish we were doing something else, we can start to feel resentful. It’s tempting to mentally check out, disappear into our phones, or get plain ol’ grouchy. When we're in it for the long haul, though, it's helpful to tell ourselves, "I can do this for 10 minutes." Perhaps it's playing someone else's favorite game (the one that's the bane of our existence); perhaps it's doing something else that we find slightly less than enjoyable. Whatever it is, if you know you're allowing yourself a stretch break / coffee break / mental break in just 10 minutes, you can probably power through it and stay engaged. You might even enjoy it more knowing there’s an end point. Oftentimes, you can check back in with yourself and ask, "Can I do this for 10 more minutes now that I made it through the first 10?" Some of the best parenting is done in 10-minute increments. You've got this.

  • 2. Change your "have to" to "get to."

Family bonding time doesn't mean you "have to spend time with family;" it means you "get to" do it. Remembering those who can't is both humbling and sobering. Perspective is a gift. You get to spend time together. We're doing what we're doing right now because a lot of other people no longer get the opportunity to be together.
As Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, "Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind." Before we know it, these days will merely be shadows, as well.

  • 3. Find family bonding activities that everyone enjoys.

Family bonding activities can be as simple as looking through an old family photo album together, sitting down together with some good books, or starting a makeshift band in your living room. It doesn't have to involve anything that would "look good" on social media.
If the activities your five-year-old enjoys don't match those that your 12-year-old would choose, develop a rotation system. (Yes, you get to be a part of it, too.) All family members get to contribute ideas. Putting the ideas into a jar and randomly drawing the "winner" is a great way to keep it fair.

Spending time together like this, even a LOT of it, can be a wonderful gift for the whole family.

One day, we will look back at this season -- and we will have an emotional memory of how we spent it with our children. Things may not be picture perfect in the world right now (or even close to it), but we have the power to make peace with what we have. We can be available and vulnerable and emotionally present with our families---for our partners, for our children, and for ourselves. This bonding time might just have the potential to be the most healing thing we've ever done together.

Sarah R. Moore is a published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Certified by the Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring, she works alongside bestselling author Elizabeth Pantley. She also spent a year observing Teacher Tom, a leading practitioner of ‘democratic play-based’ education. She has her Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently worldschooling her family.