Family Night: Relaxing, Communicating and Laughing Together

Yet I think what our kids are asking for is the opportunity to unwind and enjoy their families, some time to put the cares of the world aside in favor of bonding.

That’s where family night comes in. Busy parents may not feel like there is much time to engage in “hanging out”. Yet, most of us can recall a time (way back) when we convened with friends for expressly that purpose… Not to do homework or otherwise achieve anything, just to be in each other’s lazy company. Hanging out is about relaxing, communicating, and laughing together.

  • Relax: to spend time resting or doing something enjoyable
  • Communicate: to share or exchange information, feelings, or ideas
  • Laugh: to show that you are happy or that you think something is funny by smiling and making a sound from your throat.

(Hey-sometimes we forget).

Our lives are busy. There are myriad reasons to feel tired and stressed, so that even committing to a monthly ritual-let alone a weekly one-can feel overwhelming. However, more than I want to take a dance class, Spanish lessons, participate in a book club, or a lecture series, I am committed to a weekly family night. For us, that’s three hours on Friday evening. No phones, no screens, no excuses: just time to hang out together.

A Few Family Night Ideas:

  • Have a dance party where you take turns making song requests or playing DJ.
  • Cook something together that everyone likes; OR order-in.
  • Do the dishes as an assembly line (sing songs together and pass the non-breakables with a coordinated toss).
  • Stargaze and talk about astronomy, astrology, or essential life questions.
  • Look at photobooks or picture albums that hold family memories.
  • Volunteer together (at a soup kitchen, fundraiser, etc.).
  • Take a walk (no destination required – just get into nature).
  • Jam (on musical instruments, although making fruit jam is also fun and easy!).
  • Make an obstacle course in the backyard and compete for speed, accuracy, elegance, etc. (Making the thing is the main event).
  • Get out your favorite board games or card games.
  • Draw your family tree.
  • Dress up fancily and/or have a formal tea.
  • Turn the lights off and light candles: imagine a power outage or a time before the advent of electricity.
  • Tell a story together (around in a circle, as in a story-string, or Mad Lib style).
  • Create art together (get out a pad or roll of paper and work on a collaborative, themed mural, or each make your own magazine collage representing goals or other themes that you can share).
  • Put on skits for each other (or play charades).
  • Read together in a tent (outdoors in a camping tent, or indoors in a blanket tent).

To My Children: In the wise words of Charles Kingsley, “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”

I am incredibly enthusiastic about YOU. Let’s hang out!


Nelle Myrica Donaldson is a writer living Berkeley, CA with her husband and three children. Her academic interests and expertise are in biology, psychology and anthropology, and she enjoys writing about the human experience through the lenses of parenting, science, and speculative fiction. www.nelledonaldson.com

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