When A Family Works Together

As a family and couples therapist, I am always interested in how families solve problems and navigate issues. This family activity came from one of my own experiences when I was a teenager. I attended Hurricane Island Outward Bound. The experience lasted 22 days and was filled with challenges and growth opportunities.

We must strive to make the most out of difficult situations. The physical aspects and dietary changes did pose a bit of a challenge for me, but the emotional challenges were huge. More on that another time maybe. One very real and unfortunate experience had to do with the group of the 12 of us, all about the same age, not being very cohesive. Some wanted to work, some did not. Some wanted to get the full experience, some were just going through the motions, doing as little as possible, because they were sent by a parent, without wanting to go.

One day, the instructors let us drift closer and closer to an island. We went on land every day for a brief time, but this was different because it was an island, all treed in, no sign of human life.

22 Foot Whaling Boat! Not a lot of room for not getting along.

The instructors said, “You have 5 minutes to decide as a group 5 items from on the boat that you would like to take with you. We’ll be back in 24 hours.” I know we chose water and peanut butter but I can’t remember what else. Their goal for us was to work together without any adults. We got through it, but without much success. Nonetheless, we did get through it and some of us learned a thing or two, hence, look what I do now in family therapy.

The Island Drop-Off Experience

Here it is! A chance for you to work together as a family! The activity instructions are outlined in the Free Download here or click the button above.

This is an ideal activity for any age child who has some understanding or experience of planning, organizing, thinking ahead, practical information such as nights being cooler than days, etc. Even very small children may have a great idea. If smaller children are not quite ready for this, you could have them listen and maybe draw a picture to attach to your list while others are working on the list. Improvise and adapt as needed.

Parents, here are your special instructions;

  1. After dinner or another “down time” is an excellent choice of time.
  2. Choose a time when the whole family can be present.
  3. Parents are to show no sign of conflict, aggravation, boredom, etc. Talk about it ahead of time how you are going to be on the same page and contribute equally. Children sensing a power struggle or imbalance between parents will not make for the best results.
  4. You (parents) are not in charge. You are NOT the teacher, instructor, parent, boss… Your job is to participate equally as your child(ren) do. If they aren’t cooperating with each other, you can set some limits, but try to let it unfold the way it will.
  5. Be an excellent observer of how the family works together. Does someone not take a turn to speak? Speak too much? Try to be the boss of everyone? Make sure everyone gets a turn? Argue when they don’t get their way? Do they compliment each other? “Great idea! I never even thought of that!” All of these things are vital information for you as parents.
  6. Be prepared that anything can happen. One child may have the idea that each person makes their own list and then you compare lists. It’s your call how you handle things that come up.
  7. If you need to set a rule about participation (too much or too little) make the rule that no one speaks twice in a row. Once you have given your input, you don’t speak again until everyone else has had a turn.
  8. Serve dessert AFTER! A completion bonus!
  9. Parents debrief after the children have gone to bed. How did it go? What did you notice? How will you use what you have learned to facilitate growth in an area of need that you notice?
  10. Parents celebrate victory!!!! Maybe it didn’t go as well as you had hoped. Maybe someone left mad. Ideally, everyone leaves feeling enriched but even if not, celebrate the victory in taking on the activity and completing it!

When a family works together, amazing things can happen!

  • Beautiful little people turn into beautiful big people!
  • Shy children can become confident children!
  • Overbearing children learn perspective!
  • Children strengthen their voice and learn how and when to use it!
  • Couples dramatically lighten their load of “issues” in the home!
  • You can accomplish a lot!
  • Communities benefit from more people who can navigate difficult challenges, solve problems and brainstorm incredible plans!

Next thing you know, your children are putting down their devices and scheming about how to build a fort under the table or in the back yard and deciding what they will need. Win! Win! Who doesn’t want that?!