Five fun summer activities to enhance your family’s mental health
Soccer camps, trips to the beach, summer workbooks, extended time at the park- summer can be a busy time for families. While most families’ schedules fill up quickly, summer is also a natural pause from the regular schedule and a chance to focus on parts of life that you may not always have time to attend to. Many parents intuitively enroll their children and teens in activities based on hobbies and interests, but opportunities to enhance your family’s mental, emotional, and relational health may be less obvious. Give your family a mental health tune-up this summer with these fun, family-friendly activities.
Have you ever intentionally reflected on your family’s guiding values and principles?
As any Harry Potter fan knows, few things are more satisfying than knowing what’ house’ you belong to, and the pride you feel representing your house’s symbol and colors. Humans crave a collective sense of identity and shared meaning, but as kids get older and personalities, hobbies, and relationships change, commonalities can be increasingly challenging to find. To counter this, I encourage families to create a family crest or a visual representation of what unites their family. I like this activity because it’s art-based and accessible for younger children. This activity can springboard lots of good conversations that will be sure to continue long after your family crest is complete and hanging above the mantle.
Family mindfulness practice
There are few things I recommend more frequently than building some sort of mindfulness practice into the family routine. I consider a daily mindfulness practice an important component of good mental health hygiene. Just like brushing your teeth for 2(ish) minutes 2x/day and exercising for 30(ish) minutes/day is a part of our daily routine and important for maintaining good oral and physical health, dedicating a few minutes/day towards a mindfulness practice can be a great way to maintain positive mental health functioning and can add up to some big changes in the long run. A few of my favorite child-friendly apps include Smiling Mind; Head Space for Kids; and Stop, Think, and Breathe.
Most families are familiar with the concept of a family meeting. However, these usually only occur when something is wrong, and many of us have memories of family meetings feeling more like a lecture, rather than time to connect and feel understood. Like any successful meeting, conducting an effective family meeting is a skill set that can be practiced. Having a regular set aside time, assurance of expression without interruption (I like using a talking stick), use of reflective listening, and an agreed-upon agenda are a few components that could help your next family check-in feel fruitful.
Family bucket list
Summer can be a great time to revisit our list of places we’d like to visit and experiences we’d like to have. Most people have their own individual goals and dreams, but making some sort of family bucket list can be a great way to learn more about what is important to other family members and allows for connection through shared goals and dreams. Take turns on who takes the lead in planning the next family adventure, and you might be surprised!
Family gratitude practice
Most of us are familiar with the mental health benefits of a regular gratitude practice, and establishing this as a family norm can be even more rewarding. If you have younger kids in the home, it can be fun to decorate a gratitude jar together. Leave it in a common place in the home and read some of its contents aloud at the next family meeting. Practicing gratitude as a family helps establish good mental health habits and can be a pathway to build people up in the home when they hear positive statements about themselves read out loud from another family member.