I absolutely adore the fall! It is the best time of year to be living in Pennsylvania. However, I do miss the lazy, relaxed days of summer when the kids weren’t in school and life didn’t feel like someone has their finger on the fast forward button. In order to slow things down a bit, our family implements a bonding activity over dinner each night. It’s small, and really seemed almost silly to blog about, but I thought I’d pass along the tip to you. We call the game Thorns and Roses (and apparently we’re not the first ones to think of it. I’m told President Obama does the same thing each day with his family!)
Here is how the game works. At the end of dinner, we each share a thorn from our day (something we found unpleasant) and then we follow it up with something we loved about our day (our rose). You could call this game “prayers and praises”, “lows and highs” or whatever might better fit your family. Our boys are nature lovers and latched onto the rose analogy immediately.
Here are some tips we implement to help the game run smoothly:
- Family members can share all the roses they want but thorns should be kept to a minimum. If my boys insist on sharing a bunch of thorns, then they also need to share an equal number of “roses” to balance them out. We all need to vent and if your kiddo shares a major issue that needs more attention then let him/her know that after dinner the two of you will talk more about it.
- Don’t scold your kids for whatever thorns they share or try to talk them out their thorns. Just listen. If you jump in and try to rescue them from their thorns, you’ll shut them down and they will not want to open up to you.
- You can ask your kids how they might change a thorn to a rose, but don’t push it. The point of the game is to listen and validate that we all have some things in our day that are pleasing and uncomfortable but to mostly practice the self-discipline of thanksgiving. If you want to model in your own answer how you changed an uncomfortable situation into a better one, fantastic (i.e. I prayed about it; I did some exercise to relieve my anger; I talked it out with the person that hurt my feelings, etc.)
In doing this little game each night, we’ve learned so much about our boys. They will often tell us things during this time that normally don’t come up in the “How was your day at school?” conversation. As someone who tends towards pessimism myself, it’s a fantastic self-discipline for me to practice. I want my boys to know it’s okay to talk about the frustrations of the day but to also be grateful and find joy in the small things. They LOVE playing this game each night. If you have teenagers, yes, they will roll their eyes at the suggestion of this game, but give it a try anyhow and see how it goes!
How about you? Any tips you want to share with us on how you set aside time for family bonding? Let us know!