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Family Night
by Colleen Moulding

Do you spend your evenings jumping in and out of the car ferrying children to dance classes, swimming lessons, karate or football practice? Do you often opt for a microwave meal or a takeaway because it is getting late and everyone is hungry? Do the children disappear to their rooms once they have eaten to play computer games, listen to music or run up the phone bill chatting to their friends? Do you feel that family life isn't what you expected and want it to be?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, holding regular family nights could be just what you need to increase closeness and communication, disperse a little stress and anxiety and most of all relax and have some fun together.

So what happens on a family night? The answer to this is, anything that you want to happen. Some families go out as a group, some quite definitely stay in. Some families include grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, some families like to keep the night for immediate family only. Some families decide that on this one night, for two or three hours, there is no television, no telephone calls etc. yet for others family night is a video and popcorn. It all depends on what you can all enjoy doing together that will store up happy memories for the future too.

One of the best ways to start family night is to all join in making the evening meal or making a treat to enjoy after the meal. This could be something simple like everyone helping to make cookies, with even the smallest family member stirring in the choc chips and Dad wearing a funny apron while he washes up, or something unusual for your family like creating a complete Chinese or Mexican meal with all the trimmings.

Some people like to have a complete agenda for the evening including a Family Business time when everyone's committments are noted on a calendar and any time clashes sorted out. It can also be a time to discuss any problems a family member is having, suggest ways to help, or just let the person know that you are all there for them.

Next comes the best part of the evening - having fun together! This is very much going to depend on the ages of your children and what they like to do. Ask them for input and don't worry if you can't fit it all in the first time, you're going to be doing this every week remember.

Very young children would probably love singing songs, making paper dolls or junk models, using finger puppets and looking at story books with you. Older children and teens would enjoy board games, jigsaw puzzles, crafts, telling jokes or learning magic tricks and putting on a show.

The main thing is that you are all together and enjoying it. Have a great family night!