If your family is anything like ours, you go through cycles of togetherness and separation. I’m not sure exactly how it happens, but it’s like we all fall out of sync. The next thing I know, we’re eating TV dinners and barely communicating with each other. We’re together but alone, and it’s terrible. And it makes me worry for my kids. Which is why we’ve changed our habits to include more family wellness activities together.
Too much free time can be dangerous for anyone, and it’s especially dangerous for teenagers.
Alcoholism, addiction, and family time
We don’t need a study to tell us that kids are less likely to use drugs when they’re with their parents, but a little proof never hurt anybody.
An entire town in Iceland seems to have turned around their addiction problem by offering kids healthier alternatives, changing smoking age minimums and getting parents more involved. In Reykjavik, Iceland, teens are involved in after-school programs that allow them to get active, be creative and learn new skills.
Since the local government enforced these programs, kids between 15 and 16 who spent time with their parents doubled their family time spent. The basis of this program was something called behavioral addiction. Instead of letting kids get addicted to drugs or alcohol, the government fostered addictions to positive behavioral activities.
Results of this behavioral experiment were published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, and most are positive. The percentage of people who have never used alcohol in their lifetime rose from 20.8 percent in 1995 to 65.5 percent in 2015. The number of students who drank alcohol 40 times or more dropped from 13.7 percent to 2.8 percent.
In our family, I know we need a more structured routine to keep us working together. I can only imagine there are other families like ours who can benefit from such a routine, so I decided to share the wellness activities we’ve adopted together.
One of the greatest things about yoga is that it’s perfect for every fitness level. You could do a family yoga night and include toddlers and grandparents. Everyone can participate. And as you do yoga, you become more physically flexible and mentally strong. It’s truly a practice for your mind and body.
Meditation is a practice that can help soothe anxiety, lower blood pressure and increase mindfulness. It’s great for quelling those damaging thoughts that run amok in your head. And just imagine how strong you’d be if you learned how to meditate as a child.
Exercise offers a great opportunity to enhance your physical fitness while connecting with nature. And it may also help your family fight depression. A Stanford-led study found that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression. When people walked for 90 minutes in nature versus urban settings, they showed decreased activity in a brain region associated with depression.
Cooking with your kids isn’t just a great bonding experience; it can help shape healthy eating habits for a lifetime. A 2014 CDC review found that cooking programs have a positive impact on kids food preferences, attitudes, and behaviors.
Try getting the kids involved in cooking as early as possible. They can get involved from the time they can hold a spatula, but they’ll become more helpful as toddlers and young adults.
Regardless of whether you can cook together, eating together as a family gives parents time to connect with their children. You can use this time to talk about drugs and alcohol, relationships and schoolwork. If you have these conversations at dinner every night, your kids are less likely to withdraw.
I firmly believe that every item on this list is worth doing in an effort to connect with your family and create a sense of togetherness. Undoubtedly, there will be parents reading this who have done all these things and still had issues with their kids withdrawing as teens. As parents, we can only ever do our best.
What’s your favorite family activity?