The first couple sessions of family counseling can be difficult as you navigate a new relationship with a counselor and share your families’ struggles. Once in family counseling all of that hard work clears a path for new ways of communicating and re-building those relationships that you have missed. But as a family counselor, I find that after a few weeks of family therapy I often find a room full of faces looking at me and asking “Now what?” As a father recently put it, “I see where I’ve messed up and can identify areas where I’ve gone wrong but I have no idea how to start building again”.
The tips I give to families on how to start building their bonds again can apply for those counseling and out. So to help you build up your family bonds, here are five tips used in family therapy to start new conversations and build better relationships:
5 Tips Used in Counseling to Build Better Relationships
1. Create a New Memory. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”. To “speak” loudly about your intention to build better relationships, make a brand new memory together. A new adventure can start at your neighborhood park. It can also be as simple as cooking together, taking a walk, or reading a book.
Creating a new positive memory will not only renew bond between you and your family members it will give you something to talk about, for days or even years to come.
2. Make an Art Project. A great art project that’s easy and fun for children and teens are collages. Collages are an easy project to do even for individuals that do not consider themselves to be good artists.
Using markers, crayons, pictures, and cut outs, encourage your child to make an “All About Me” collage. You can even do one and share them with each other. Other art projects can include a “Then” collage from the past, or a “Future” collage for what they would like to be in 1, 5, or 10 years. Making collages together is a great way to not only have fun, but look at common interests and goals for your family while incorporating each family member in an activity.
3. Toss Around a Ball. One of my most used tools is my “emotions ball”, which like it sounds, is a ball that has different emotions written on it ranging from “joyful” to “lonely” to “silly”. Tossing this ball around can start a conversation about emotions in many different ways.
Teenagers are often relieved to have something to do while talking about feelings and younger children simply enjoy the physical activity. Emotions can be brought in to the conversation by asking each member to describe a time they felt a certain emotion every time they catch the ball. Participants can also be asked to act out an emotion.
There are a variety of ways this ball can be used to fit your family. Some families have chosen to make their own emotions ball at home by writing on a beach ball – a great idea to use things you might have in your house already! Talking about emotions can start new conversations and sharing with each other will help develop trust and understanding between family members.
4. Play Board Games. Yes, even simple board or card games can be a therapy tool, used to start creating new connections and strengthen bonds between family members. One of my favorite games for family therapy is “Go Fish”. This is a simple card game that allows for lots of conversation to happen while you’re playing. However, at home, even more elaborate games that require more concentration will help create new positive memories. This time spent together without other distractions will open up the opportunity to build your relationship.
Amanda Regalia, M.A. is a marriage and family counselor and clinician for The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. Amanda specializes in working with families and children ages 5 and up. She is passionate about helping people to create practical solutions that support them in achieving their goals and improving their relationships and life