PANHANDLE PERSPECTIVES: Strengthening family bonds with children during homebound times

By Jackie Guzman Extension Educator – Learning Child

As COVID-19 is changing our lives on a daily basis and with school closings, families are home together in often-times tight quarters. This can be very trying, even for the most patient individual.  This can also be an opportunity to strengthen our family bonds with children.

It is important to remember that families are the first teachers of their children.  Families help teach children how to socialize with the world outside and engage with others.  Families form the foundation for children to learn from in order to become great family members and citizens.

I often start many of my teaching sessions, with adults, asking this question: “Think of someone who was really special to you when you were growing up.”  Then I ask, “What was your relationship to this person? What made you think of this person? What did this person do that made him/her so important or special to you?”

The majority of the responses refer to a family member. There is usually a very strong emotional response about how this person made them feel. Often people shed tears when sharing with the group about how important this person was to them.

When I ask, “What did they do?”  I get these types of responses:  Their love was unconditional.  They listened to me and didn’t judge me.  They shared their passion with me sewing, cooking, mechanics, etc. A passion that was passed on to them and they continue as adults.  Most important they always found time to share with them.  They spent a lot of time together.  I then ask, “Did the time spent together that brought you such happiness always cost a lot of money?”  The answer is always no.

The most important conclusion from this process is that what made us most happy as children is just being together and enjoying each other’s company, and that the activities that bring us together don’t have to cost a lot of money.  Most importantly: Out of this comes the foundation for a strong family!

As your children are home from school, think about how you can build a strong family by spending time together conversing.  If you need a list of ideas here are some to start with:

Mealtime this is a great time to engage in conversations with your children. Plan meals together or allow them to plan a meal, and help in meal preparation.  For older children allow them to plan and prepare a meal. For very young children there is always something they can do, like take items out of the grocery bags, help wash fruits and vegetables, or help set the table. Be creative.

Have a picnic for dinner on a blanket on the floor or in the yard. It doesn’t have to be anything costly – make sandwiches or have each family member build their own sandwich.

Spend time outdoors enjoying nature together, playing games in the yard or going for walks.

Have a family slumber party or pitch a tent in the house.

Play games together – board games and card games.

An important rule during family-time activities is that all family members must put away all the technology and electronics.  Turn-off the TV, put the phones away, no electronic games anything that keeps you from interacting and having a conversation with each other.

Remember the planned activity is what brings you together, so that you as a family can spend time together engaging in conversation and learning to enjoy each other.  This may be an opportunity to start some of your own family traditions.

 More resources are available at Nebraska Extension’s Learning Child website, which provides  affordable, research-based, educational programs, and resources to empower all adults who care for young children by providing high-quality professional development that sets the stage for lifelong learning, discovery, and success.