The long, warm days of summer often inspire barbecue dinners, outdoor fun in the sun, and creative ways to stay cool. The summer is also a time when many families gather for reunions, holidays, or special family events. These gatherings are a great opportunity to create memories that can last a lifetime.
Here are some suggestions for adding more meaning to your family get-togethers while helping everyone feel more united as family, both during and after the event.
Choose a location of significance to your family.
Childhood homes or the homes of parents or grandparents can evoke strong memories and lead to conversations. If an ancestral home is no longer in the family, you could meet at a nearby park or recreational facility to share memories.
Another approach is to gather in the town or neighborhood where your ancestors lived and take a tour of the landmarks where significant historical events occurred for your family.
Provide activities for all ages.
Family gatherings should be fun for everyone. Consider gathering at a park or recreational facility and allowing time for children and teenagers to play and get to know each other better. Ball games, playground activities, races, and even old-time parlor games give children a chance to interact and strengthen their family bonds.
Include plenty of fun and games for everyone.
Everyone needs to feel included at family gatherings. Consider some catalysts to get people interacting and having fun. Here are a few ideas:
- Pair people up and see which team can successfully play catch with a water balloon at progressively greater distances.
- Play a game of charades based on well-known family stories and experiences.
- Invite family members to reveal two truths and a lie about things they have done, and see who can detect the lie.
- Hold a family talent showcase to better appreciate your collective talents and abilities.
Provide T-shirts or mementos to help identify participants as family.
What is your family’s visual identity? A custom T-shirt can help identify you as a member of your clan, especially if you meet in crowded venues. Does Grandpa have a fun or inspiring saying that everyone loves? Maybe you could send everyone home with a framed copy. Maybe you could invite people to bring a favorite family recipe and then create a recipe book from the submissions, which you can distribute after the event. These physical items can remind people of your time together and what it means to be a member of your family.
Show and discuss family photos or videos.
Nothing evokes memories like great photos or home video footage. Invite family members to bring current pictures and baby pictures of each member of the family, and create a matching game. Or display fun or interesting family photos, and invite family members to provide captions. When watching old family videos, the audience gives a running commentary that is often as entertaining as the videos themselves.
Talk about what it means to be a member of your family.
Your family has a history that makes it what it is today. That history includes triumphs, failings, and ongoing struggles that contribute to a unique culture and heritage.
Have everyone briefly share his or her thoughts on what it means to be a member of the family or some words of appreciation for another family member. Preserving what is shared with a digital audio recorder is a simple and great way to save these expressions in a way that also makes them easy to share.
Record plenty of moments to remember the event.
Families are always changing. Designate a family member to take photos and video. These items will create a snapshot of your family and reinforce memories of the day’s events, especially for those who are younger. Photos can be added to FamilySearch Family Tree as an album and shared as a web link or through social media with those who attended.
Record memories from the matriarchs and patriarchs at your gathering.
Gather and preserve the wisdom of the most senior members of your family. You can ask questions about their lives, suggest topics for discussion, or simply ask them to share what is most important to them. You can share recorded videos online or submit audio snippets to FamilySearch.org for simple sharing and permanent preservation.
Collect or update contact information to keep in touch.
While everyone is together, send a sheet around to get everyone’s preferred email address, phone number, and physical address. Designate someone to then send the list of contact information to everyone who is in attendance. This list will come in handy for future get-togethers, sending family updates, or other events.
Create a family website or online group for ongoing sharing.
Create a page on Facebook or a simple website to share memories from your family gathering. Photos and videos can be shared now more easily than ever before. Treasured family photos that were displayed or talked about can also be shared. Although your reunion or gathering may be over, this is a great way to keep the conversation going. An online page or website also gives your family a way to stay in touch and to help plan the next family gathering.
Implementing a few of these suggestions may help you do more than just strengthen your family when you get together—you might create a sense of love, inclusion, and unity that blesses your family for generations.