Family Bonding

By: Kathryn Ferrara

There are a variety of factors which impact the likelihood of an individual developing a substance use and/or mental health disorder. Effective prevention reduces the risk factors while strengthening the protective factors associated with drug use and other problem behaviors. Parental involvement and positive relationships with caregivers are two of the chief protective factors identified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

School breaks, such as summer vacation which on the horizon, can provide an excellent opportunity for families to enjoy time together. 

See some of the suggestions and resources below to help plan a fun and memorable summer that can strengthen the bonds between you and your kids:

Arts & Crafts: Art can be a great way to bond as a family. It allows everyone to take a break from technology and focus on creating something as a family.  Working on something together can also help kids relax and open up to their families about things that may be on their mind. Check out these great resources for some simple ideas to get started:

Family Book Club: This is a great way to make reading a fun experience while creating an opportunity for family members to connect to one another. For younger children, they can take turns choosing books to be read aloud by an adult family member who can then lead a discussion afterwards. For older kids, they can take turns choosing books for the whole family to read independently before coming together to discuss them. There isn’t one right way to utilize this idea. It’s all about creating an enjoyable shared experience. Check out some ideas below, but remember to make it your own:

Fun with Food: According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), children whose families share regular meals together are less likely to smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs. Regular family meal times also have a positive impact on mental health and academic performance. Finding ways to involve kids in the kitchen to prepare meals creates additional time to bond. Read cookbooks and browse online recipes with kids to find things they are interested in learning to make. Have them come to the grocery store to buy the ingredients needed and work together in the kitchen to prepare the meal. Creative theme nights (taco bar, breakfast for dinner) is another way to make dinner a fun experience. However, hectic family schedules with work, sports, and other activities can make having dinner together a challenge. Having breakfast together or a family dessert time at the end of the evening are alternative ways to get the entire family sitting at the table together. 

Game Night: Family game night is fun and beneficial for child development.  Board games, card games, or even simple communication games such as I-Spy or 20 Questions is a great way to bond as a family while engaging kids without technology.  Creating your own family board game can take this idea a step further by giving the family a fun summer project to work on!

Get Outdoors: Picnics, scavenger hunts, hikes, trips to the park, backyard campouts… the possibilities for outdoor family fun are endless! Check out some resources below to help you plan some outdoor activities:

Movie Night: There are so many ways to put a fun spin on the traditional family movie night. Have young kids make and “sell” tickets and concessions. They can also take turns picking the movie. You can even have an outdoor movie night with the right set up. Check out more ideas here to make movie night unforgettable for the whole family!

Take a Walk Down Memory Lane: Sharing family stories, looking through photo albums, creating scrapbooks, and watching home videos is not only an enjoyable experience for many families, but it’s a great catalyst for discussion with kids about your family’s core values. When kids understand and appreciate their family values, it can help inform their decision making.


You can also take a look at what your town’s recreation department has to offer. Check out the online summer brochures below:


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