By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
It's winter. The nights come early. The grays, the glooms, and blahs are probably hitting. If you're like a typical American family, your evening—if it's not occupied by homework or lessons—means you're spending extra bonding time with the TV or X-Box. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes that in itself can lend toward the winter blues.
Family time is still important, and though sometimes the spring and summer make it far easier to plan activities to keep you moving and spending time together, the winter isn't a time to neglect focused family time.
So what can you do as a family to ward off those winter blues?
Here are some ideas that may help:
1. Traditional Game Night
It's not a new idea, but it's still a good one! There are so many games available now to suit all personality types. Some people really hate board games, so opt for a card game then or a dice game—if they're willing to try it. Not sure what games are good family games? Outside of the typical Monopoly, Sorry, Scrabble, and Chutes and Ladders, there are others that families find fun and interesting too.
Try Ticket to Ride, Farkle, Tensi, or Yahtzee, to name a few. Clue has taken some new twists these days, and many strategy games are also available.
2. Community Activities
Does hiding in the house playing games absolutely terrify you? Check out your local community calendar. You might be surprised how many outdoor winter activities are available for families. Some common ones are candlelit hikes, snowshoeing park trails by solar/candle lights, sledding, or even open skate night at the local ice hockey rink.
Granted, those activities are assuming you live somewhere cold with snow. The Pacific Northwest is probably contending with rain and ice, and the South/Southwest may be wondering what winter blues are. Still, outdoor activities in your community are often being offered—you just have to look for them.
There might be indoor activities like a local bowling night for families, an indoor market, art shows, and even local plays and dramas. Remember to consider your community drama guild and your local high school performances. Those can be a win-win for the entire family too!
3. Indoor Camping
Ever tried it? It's lots of fun and doesn't require the pounding of tent pegs, either! If you have a large enough family room, try setting up your tent! Break out the camping pads and sleeping bags, and flashlights. Haul the family's bedding in, and don't forget the favorite stuffed animals too!
There's nothing more fun than camping in your living room with popcorn, and the door latched open so you can watch a movie. Or, even better, read stories or start a family book together. Hot cocoa—sure, the microwave isn't far away—and you definitely don't have to be worried about whether it rains!
Don't have a tent? Build an old-fashioned fort with card tables, blankets, and the like. Nothing is more fun than getting your creative juices flowing and building a family "castle." The same concepts apply; just ensure you've got the blanket edges well attached so the fort doesn't come tumbling down at midnight.
4. Family Karaoke Night
There is something to be said about your own homegrown America's Got Talent show. A lot of gaming systems now have karaoke options, and so do your phones! Get the family together for a rousing, fun night of karaoke challenge. Or invite Alexa to challenge your family with a music trivia game! Have you ever asked her? It's a hoot!
Want to make it more challenging? Invite some friends over! Maybe another family. Turn it into family talent night and branch out from karaoke. Magic tricks, plays, dances, etc., can all be quite the entertainment and, if nothing else, provide many laughs for all involved.
You can also test each other's movie soundtrack knowledge by playing excerpts of soundtracks and seeing who can name the most movies. Split into teams if you want to make it fairer. Parent and child teams are fun. Or if you have that other family over, mix and match family members.
5. Slumber Parties
So it may be along the vein of family camping, but it's definitely different. How many kids you have and their ages might affect how you split up. But one parent can take some, and the other parent can take the others. Or, if you're a single parent, it's one big happy party. But the idea is a fun night with Mom and/or Dad! Kids pick the games, the movies, the activities (within reason) and get their parent's undevoted attention.
This also means that phones are cast aside as non-essentials, so be sure you don't plan to multitask while watching a movie or playing a game. The kiddos will call you on it!
And yes, the word "slumber" is a part of this plan. Depending on your situation, you may split into different rooms and make a bed on the floor, or maybe it's a sprawl all over the family room couches sort of night, or perhaps you just stay up late and then retire to your own beds. But, most slumber parties are most successful when sleeping is together and part of the plan.
None of these ideas are novel and amazing. Many are simply reviving old traditions you may have done as a kid pre-Internet, streaming services, texting, and social media. But the fact is, we often don't make time to do these types of things. Then throw in winter's dark and dreary, and it's no wonder by February, many of us are struggling with depression, melancholy, withdrawal, and anxiety.
Ward off those winter blues together! Make plans. It's a family date night. It's a time that is scheduled, planned, and riddled with expectations. The kids will find energy and life just living on the anticipation wave. You, as a parent, may feel it's just going to take so much energy to accomplish, but there's a good chance you'll be making memories and invigorating your own energy too.
The fact is, if you look at the calendar, winter really is on its way out right about now. The evenings will start getting longer soon, the temperature will start warming up, the holidays are in the rearview mirror, and spring isn't all that far away. That means the busyness of summer is just around the corner, and while most of us come alive in that time, we may not realize the opportunities we missed wishing away winter.
Opportunities for togetherness, quietness, memory-making of a more intimate sort, and trying new things that make winter not quite as bad as we thought it might be.
So, chase away those blues and exchange them for some smiles and laughter. Trust me. It's worth the effort.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.