Using Wholesome Activities to Strengthen Families

Spending time together in wholesome recreational activities is important for establishing and maintaining a strong family. Involvement in these simple activities can have a powerful, even unforgettable influence in the lives of children. Scholars and religious leaders alike note that successful families spend time doing things together, things like family projects, work, vacations, and traditions.

Ramon Zabriskie, a family leisure researcher at Brigham Young University, found that sharing leisure time improves family cohesion and adaptability. Cohesion refers to the level of emotional closeness in a family, while adaptability refers to a family’s ability to handle everyday and unexpected stresses and strains.

Core and Balance Activities

Two basic categories of family activities can be used to promote family cohesion and adaptability. “Core” activities consist of informal activities such as watching television and videos together, playing board games, shooting baskets in the driveway, doing activities in the yard, gardening, or having a water fight while washing the car. These activities meet a family’s need for stability, familiarity, and structure. The other kind or “balance” family activities are more formal and require more planning, such as family vacations, most outdoor recreation such as fishing or boating, special events, and trips to a theme park, sporting event, or bowling alley. These activities meet a family’s need for change, novelty, variety, and challenge.

Families who balance core and balance activities are likely to function better than those who participate in extremely high or low amounts in either category.

Planning Core and Balance Activities

Knowing the need for both core and balance activities, families are wise to visit about how to use their time together not only for fun but for the purpose of strengthening their family.

Use a family counsel to plan core and balance activities for a fixed period of time, say a month. During this meeting, you can also attend to other important guidelines in planning activities:

Plan age-appropriate recreational activities.

Plan activities that foster the development of family members.

Intentionally establish rituals that connect family members and foster family love.

Regularly choose challenging activities that stretch each family member.

Clarify the purpose of the activity.

Select activities in which participants can acquire a sense of mastery and competence.

Incorporate intellectual and creative elements.

Look for opportunities to promote moral behavior (e.g., service to others).

Select activities that will rejuvenate both mind and body.

For Further Reading:

Take Back Your Time
edited by John de Graf

Putting Family First
by William J. Doherty and Barbara Z. Carlson

The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties
by William J. Doherty

Additional Websites

Putting Family First – An organization dedicated to raising awareness about the crucial connections between parents and children, and helps families find balance in their lives.

Family Fun and Leisure Website – a useful doorway to lots of ideas for family fun