Most people see a few close family members on a regular basis. But when was the last time you got together with relatives for a family reunion? These events can create joy and special memories for adults and children alike. Here are a few reasons why you should consider having a family gathering soon:
5 Reasons Why You Should Have a Family Gathering
- Strengthen Family Bonds
- Honor a Shared Heritage or Culture
- Celebrate Family Milestones
- Connect Children to Extended Family
- Create Positive Memories
All families may have parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandparents. But no two families are exactly alike. Do you know what makes your family history and traditions special? And how do you go about recognizing those unique qualities in ways that will ensure they are remembered from one generation to another?
Setting aside a few hours or a weekend for a family gathering is beneficial for any family. This is true whether you have a small family reunion or a large get-together with your extended family. A family reunion helps us all connect with our roots, celebrate family accomplishments, and feel bonded with those we love.
Some families have regular reunions every year or so. Others may hold a family gathering around a significant milestone—such as a wedding or anniversary. Whatever your family chooses to do, a gathering with extended family is a time for reflection and celebration.
1. Strengthen Family Bonds
Today, technology has made it easier than ever to stay in touch with far-flung family members. If you use social media, you may be accustomed to seeing cute photos of kids or “liking” a funny comment from a far-away relative. But these interactions—while valuable—are just the tip of the iceberg. Spending time with others and relating to them in a personal, meaningful way is the key to deeper relationships.
A family gathering is an excellent way to get to know relatives you’ve never met. You can introduce your kids to cousins who may become close friends for life. And kids can also get to know adult relatives who can support and guide them in their future. Plus, children always benefit from knowing more people who embody positive family values.
While building bonds with extended family is a significant benefit of any reunion, the event can be a special time for you and your children. Planning for the event can be exciting and educational for young people. And you can have many engaging discussions about family traditions and history. Although the family gathering may be brief, the deeper bonds with family endure well after the event.
2. Honor a Shared Heritage or Culture
Some families may have strong ties to heritage or culture that endure for generations. Others may lose touch with their ancestors or roots. Wherever your family falls on this spectrum, a reunion is the perfect time to connect with family history.
Choosing the right location can help strengthen these ties. Perhaps you could host a destination family gathering where ancestors once lived. You could schedule a tour of a nearby cultural or historic site. Or you could time your reunion around a local festival that relates to family heritage.
Another way to build awareness of family heritage is through volunteer service. Perhaps your family members could perform service work at a church that ancestors attended. Simple tasks like garden clean-up or painting can have immense value to a church or other charitable organization. And service work can help family members bond as they work together towards a common goal. Be sure to research service ideas for families well in advance of your event to give as many people as possible the chance to participate.
Chances are, you’ll find that at least one family member is an avid researcher or genealogist. A family gathering is a perfect time for family members to share photos or documents to help build out a family tree or history book. Creating and sharing these treasured mementos can preserve unique aspects of your family’s past for future generations. And you’ll be surprised just how engaged your children will be when it comes to old photos or stories of the past.
3. Celebrate Family Milestones
For some families, getting together around a significant family milestone can be ideal. You can honor an important passage—like a wedding, graduation, or anniversary—and extend the celebration with a family get-together. The enjoyment of a family reunion can ease the travel burden for those that must cross long distances to attend.
If you’re planning to center a family gathering around a milestone, preparation is essential. You’ll likely want to schedule reunion events or activities that are separate from any milestone-related celebration. You don’t want to overshadow the milestone celebrant’s special day.
4. Connect Children to Extended Family
We are our kids’ best role models and teachers. When we demonstrate that we value family connections, kids will learn from our behaviors. Conversely, if we don’t make time for family reunions, it’s unlikely our children will either. Hosting or attending a family reunion shows our kids that family matters.
By taking part in a family reunion, children can start to see how they are the continuation of generations of people. They can feel cared for and connected to a wider circle of people. They may find some new positive role models in their extended family -- an uncle they’ve not spent much time withcan embody the qualities of a good father, or an aunt can be the perfect model of a happily married woman. Relationships with cousins can deepen from mere acquaintances to loyal, lifelong friends.
5. Create Positive Memories
In our hectic everyday lives, it can be hard to schedule time with our own families. Scheduling time with extended family is even more difficult. But a family reunion gives us a dedicated time to honor the importance of staying connected to relatives, near and far. It’s an ideal reason for us to pause and honor the people closest to us.
Family gatherings give us a reason to take a break from work and school and focus on people who make life meaningful. At family events, you’ll get opportunities to have intriguing conversations and share stories and laughter. You’ll create positive memories and rich relationships that will stay with you and your children throughout your entire lives.
Today, many people have a hard time slowing down and focusing on the truly valuable things in life, like family. But we all know that the most special times occur when we take a break from the hustle-and-bustle of our normal routine. You may want to add some vacation time before or after a reunion to make the most of the occasion.
Ideas for More Meaningful Family Reunions
With a little planning, you can have a family reunion that is both fun and meaningful. Be sure to plan activities that work for both kids and adults to get everyone engaged.
One great idea is setting up an icebreaker to help distant members of your family connect. If you’re having a sit-down dinner, place a short questionnaire at each place setting. Ask questions about childhood memories and insights on ancestors. These topics are certain to be great conversation-starters. Plus, you can keep the questionnaires and use them to help build a family history book after the event. You could also ask the family to complete the Kinmundo family culture assessment online ahead of time and then plan to have fun discussing and comparing family cultures at the gathering.
Ask relatives to bring copies of family photos or mementos to share. Provide scrapbooking materials and encourage relatives to work together to create a one-of-a-kind memory book. Another excellent idea is to have relatives bring recipes for a special family cookbook.
Games can help connect people across generations. You can design and print family crossword puzzles or word searches using online templates. Or you could create a scavenger hunt to get people moving around and talking to one another. All these ideas—and more—can create special family memories that last a lifetime.
Surviving a Family Gathering
Family gatherings bring joy to many people. However, if there are old hurts, tensions, or disagreements, these get-togethers can be hard on some relations. And some family members may have difficult personalities or strong opinions that distress others. But you don’t have to let extended family issues ruin a family get together.
Go in knowing that every family has its trouble spots. Most family reunions last from a few hours to a weekend. During that short time, many people can set their differences aside and look for common ground. If you’re helping to organize the event, having structured activities can help keep relatives focused on positive topics and avoid awkward moments. It may also be wise to arrange seating to create physical space between people who have tense relationships.
If you feel nervous about interacting with certain relatives, you should honor your feelings. You may need to interact with people who make you uncomfortable but remain polite and calm. Keep the conversation focused on neutral topics. You can change the subject if the conversation treads into unwanted territory. Remember that you don’t need to disclose personal or emotional details about your life with anyone—and that includes family members.
And it’s also okay to end a conversation that is truly uncomfortable. Since family reunions are typically large events, you can say you need to go catch up with someone else and exit the discussion. Or you can volunteer to keep the event moving along. Immerse yourself in serving food or leading children’s activities. At family gatherings, there is enough to do and enough people to engage with to keep you occupied and safely away from any difficult encounters.
You deserve to enjoy your family reunion. Don’t jeopardize your own happiness to accommodate someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to have space from anyone who challenges you and focus on deepening bonds with those who bring positive feelings into your life.
Deepen Bonds with Loved Ones at a Family Gathering
Whether you have them every year or once a decade, family gatherings are important. Although modern technology makes it easier to keep in touch with family, keep in mind that social media is no replacement for a face-to-face family get-together. A family can deepen bonds when they work together towards a goal, have one-on-one conversations, or share a meal.
If you’re planning a family reunion, give yourself plenty of time to prepare. You may want to survey members of your family to find dates and locations that can work. Some families opt to meet at a venue—such as a hotel or resort. If so, there will be fees associated with space rentals, and those can add up if you expect a large group of attendees. You’ll need to establish a budget for these costs—and others such as meals or family reunion activities. And you’ll need to decide if you want to fundraise or charge a fee for each family that attends. If you want to keep costs low, find out if a family member can host the event at his or her home.
You’ll also need to collect contact information for family members. Although social media can make connecting easy, remember that some people don’t have accounts on social sites. If you have a large family, you may have to find other ways to invite people. A mailed invitation may be a good option.
For the family gathering event, aim for a mix of structured activity and downtime. Every family has people who are full of energy and those that may want to sit in one place and talk for hours. Spend some time researching family reunion ideas and pick some that will work for the different personalities in your family. You may also find it helpful to let people opt-out of certain activities, or have two different types of activities going on at the same time, with the option to choose one or the other. With a little planning, you can make sure all guests have a good time.
Lastly, it can be wise to find another family member who is interested in co-planning the event with you. Not only will this lessen the workload, but it tends to increase creative problem-solving. In addition, it allows you to be more thoughtful about communicating with certain family members who may be resistant to the idea of a reunion. In such cases, the co-planner with the best relationship with that individual might reach out. Or it may be more beneficial to approach that person as a unified front. In any event, trust your instincts and proceed with a positive mindset.
These days, most of us lead busy lives. Taking a break to focus on extended family is valuable for everyone. It helps us connect to our heritage and build new bonds with family. For a child, attending a family gathering can be an eye-opening experience that he or she will never forget. When you make family reunions a priority, everyone benefits. A reunion helps families learn more about each other—and in the process, we learn more about ourselves.