Summertime Family Fun: Four Therapeutic Activities to Build Stronger Bonds

By Jenna Caldwell, MA, MFT-C

School is officially out! Summer is a great time for families to reconnect and strengthen their bonds through fun and engaging activities. The longer days and warmer weather offer numerous opportunities for families to spend quality time together. Here are four summertime activities, grounded in therapeutic approaches, that can help enhance family connections:

Family Meetings

Schedule weekly family check-in’s where everyone can share about their experiences for the week. Use these meetings to discuss schedules, address concerns, and celebrate successes. Household check-in’s encourage open communication and ensure that every member feels heard and valued. Additionally, they provide a structured environment to make collective decisions and resolve conflicts. These activities don’t have to stop when summer ends! Continue incorporating family check-ins throughout the school year to maintain strong connections.

Quick Tip: Set a consistent day and time for weekly family check-ins and create a distraction-free space. This routine helps ensure that everyone is available and focused, making the sessions more effective and enjoyable.

Outdoor Adventures

Summer offers numerous opportunities for families to connect with nature and each other. The season also provides the chance to engage in physical activities that reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, these activities support children and adolescents in developing new skills, discovering interests, and building self-esteem (Bento & Dias, 2017). Examples include going to the park, hiking, camping, swimming, and biking. Be sure to choose outings that are accessible and safe for all family members.

Quick Tip: Get creative and create your own outdoor game in the backyard or park! Play promotes teamwork and a supportive environment among family members. Other examples include organizing a scavenger hunt or creating an obstacle course.

DIY & Craft Projects

Bring out your family’s creative side through engaging in crafts and DIY projects together. These activities allow members to express themselves, process emotions, and relieve stress. Working together encourages collaboration and further strengthens bonds. Dedicate a few nights each month to using supplies you have at home and creating something meaningful as a family.

Quick tip: If you’re finding it tough to narrow down a project, I recommend creating a family gratitude tree. Create a tree on a large piece of paper or cardboard and have family members draw or write things they are grateful for on leaves. Attach the leaves to the tree. A gratitude tree is therapeutic for families as it enhances communication, builds resilience, and fosters a supportive, appreciative family culture.

Emotional Regulation

Practicing emotional regulation as a family during summertime is crucial, especially with kids out of school and routines changing. Increased free time and new activities can lead to heightened emotions and conflicts. It also allows parents to model healthy emotional habits, helping children develop resilience and manage their feelings better (Rutherford et al., 2015). Some of these activities would include practicing meditation and deep breathing exercises together.

Quick tip: Create a safe space for when emotions run high. Designate a quiet, comfortable area in the home where family members can go to calm down and practice relaxation techniques when feeling overwhelmed.

References

Bento G, Dias G. The importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy development. Porto Biomed J. 2017 Sep-Oct;2(5):157-160. doi: 10.1016/j.pbj.2017.03.003. Epub 2017 Apr 6. PMID: 32258612; PMCID: PMC6806863.

Rutherford HJ, Wallace NS, Laurent HK, Mayes LC. Emotion Regulation in Parenthood. Dev Rev. 2015 Jun 1;36:1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.008. PMID: 26085709; PMCID: PMC4465117.

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