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Spending quality time with loved ones is a major factor in sustaining mental health. While family can sometimes be a source of stress and conflict, working on those relationships and learning to support one another and communicate effectively can have a significant impact on mood and quality of life.

Studies have shown that children who spend more time with their families are less likely to develop behavior problems or substance abuse issues. A strong, healthy familial support system can also help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It isn’t always easy to come up with creative ways to get quality family time, especially during a pandemic when options are limited. So here are five ideas for families to improve connection and communication.

  1. Make dinner together. Getting the whole family involved in meal time can create a sense of collaboration and connection. Not only is meal preparation a useful skill to teach children, but it can produce a sense of pride and accomplishment. Try cooking an old family recipe, or one that pays homage to your family’s history or culture.
  2. Play “hot seat.” Hot seat is a connection game where family members take turns asking one another questions about their lives and experiences. It may be surprising to learn that you don’t know everything about a family member, and it can feel warm and connecting to experience a family member’s curiosity about your life.
  3. Spend time in nature. Stepping away from screens and getting out of the house can be a refreshing way to connect with family. Camping, hiking or a day in the park can provide a much needed change of pace and allow family members to experience one another in a new way.
  4. Get creative. Tune in to your family’s creative side and participate in a shared artistic adventure. Choose the activity that sounds most fun to the whole family, whether it’s crafting, writing, photography, painting, or something else entirely
  5. Read together. With the prevalence of television, phones and other fast-paced entertainment options, reading sometimes goes overlooked. Try taking turns reading family-friendly books out loud during or after dinner for a unique way to bond with your family.