Our family has been to both kinds of family reunions—the dreadful ones where it’s difficult to talk with anyone outside of your family because the cliques are so strong—and the great ones where people mingled and had fun. No matter what your experience with family reunions, you can take some easy steps to make your next experience much better. In fact, you can make your next family reunion the best one yet. How?
1. Create ways for kids and adults to connect with each other in meaningful ways.
Often times, cliques at family reunions tend to be nuclear families or families who have cousins that see each other on a regular basis. Play games and do activities where you mix family members. Place one child from one family with an adult from another family. Do ice breakers and get-to-know-you activities. Consider using games from Great Group Games by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor.
2. Do fun activities that encourage kids and adults to talk to and interact with each other.
Great board games such as LifeStories and The Ungame are great ways to get people talking and having fun! If you have time to plan a game, consider creating a family scavenger hunt where people work in teams (from different families) and they need to figure out who was born in Iowa, who fought in the Vietnam War, or who has a pet snake. Have fun together! Do a mummy wrap where you create groups of threes. Have two of the group members wrap up the third person with a roll of toilet paper. Young children can have fun wrapping up an elderly person in a wheelchair. Everyone can get involved in an activity like this one and have fun. (Make sure you have cameras ready!)
3. Create designated adults to care for kids during specific timeslots.One of the biggest complaints among parents is that they don’t get the chance to visit with other adults because they’re so busy taking care of their children. Sometimes a big complaint can be that no one is keeping track of the kids and they’re just running wild and creating mayhem. Avoid either problem by having adults take turns hanging out and playing with the kids. Each adult can take a one-hour time slot. That way, most adults will get the chance to mingle with other adults, and the kids will get to know many different adults.
4. Mix up the table settings.
Have an older child or teenager sit between two adults whom they may not know. As people eat, encourage them to find something they have in common with the person on their left and with the person on their right. Later on, have people report to the larger group what they discovered.
5. Put your best effort into building relationships. Family reunions work best when people really get to know each other and enjoy being together. Some people enjoy doing crafts together. Others love playing at the beach or a lake. Others enjoy having a watermelon seed spitting contest or roasting marshmallows by the fire. Create ways for people to connect with each other and have fun spending time together.
My most memorable family reunion experience happened recently. The families rented a large cabin so that individual families could have privacy, but also still be together. The resort where we stayed has a pool and a lake, so we were able to enjoy outdoor activities together. At one point, the 74-year-old grandfather put on his swim trunks, grabbed a Super Soaker, and joined the kids in the pool! At another point, the adults and teenagers decided to swim across the lake while other adults and kids accompanied them in paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes. The grandmother who had mobility issues, sat on the dock and watched everyone leave and return. No one missed out on the great adventure! Since the family hadn’t all been together for a few years, we threw a joint birthday party to celebrate all the kids’ birthdays. On a rainy day, we all piled into the car and went to a kid’s movie and ate ice cream afterward. To this day, we still talk about that reunion ; )
Tell Us: ——> What do you love (or hate) about family reunions?
1. Family Reunion Planning, Reunions Magazine.
2. Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, Great Group Games: 175 Boredom-Busing, Zero-Prep Team Builders for All Ages (Minneapolis: Search Institute Press, 2007).
3. Summer Learning, Parentfurther.
4. Image Via RichardBH on Flick’r.