family having fun

5 Fun Activities to Create More Joy in your Family

communication coping skills first responder first responder children first responder family health hope parenting relationships Mar 02, 2021

Last month, we spent a lot of time discussing Operational Stress Injury (OSI) and how it can affect your First Responder family. While it is important to know the signs and symptoms of an OSI and Secondary stress as well as to have strategies for dealing with OSI’s, such as using emotional regulation tools, it is also just as important to find ways to have fun as a family. 

Dealing with the stress of an OSI can be difficult and often we can be so caught up in trying to manage stress, schedules and the general busyness of life that we forget that part of healing is to pause, take a deep breath and do something that brings us happiness. Doing things together as a family, will not only bring happiness to all of you, but it will also bring you closer together and strengthen your communication and connection. So how can you find time to do this as a family when shift work and conflicting schedules is so common in a First Responder family?

To start, find a pocket of time where you can sit down as a family and look at how you can prioritize family time. What do you have control over? Where can you take out chunks of time in your schedule that are open for everyone in the family and decide that it is your protected time to be together? Prioritizing your family time is an important first step, because we all know that it can be really hard otherwise to have time together, if we don't block it out and protect it. 

If your kids are teenagers and are reluctant to do this, know that no matter how old they are, all kids crave connection. It is in their wiring that they want to be connected to their parents. Even as teenagers when they're acting like they don't want to be, deep down they still want to be connected. It may just take a bit more time to get them onboard. Start by just getting everyone in the same room to talk about family time.

Once you have found a few pockets of time where everyone in the family is available, and have agreed to all block them off and prioritize them as family time, you now have to decide what you are going to do within those times.

The best way to do this is to discuss ideas as a family and make sure that everyone gets a say in how they want to spend those time blocks. You can always set some boundaries, such as everyone must contribute one idea that won’t cost money and one idea that fits within a budget. If you are stuck on ideas, I have 5 fun activities your family could try:

1. Have family cooking nights where you learn a new meal together. Work together as a family to prepare the meal and then make sure to sit down together, no distractions, to enjoy it. A great way to get your kids onboard with this, is to take turns choosing the recipe.

2. Have a family game night. It can be strictly board games or it could be a variety of board, card and electronic games. Again, take turns as a family to decide what game you will be playing together. Even a disengaged teen might get on board if you are willing to play their favorite video game together with them as a family.

3. Do a craft/art/science project as a family. Make your own family paint night, where you all try to learn how to paint the same image and see what you each come up with. Find a fun woodworking, pottery, sewing etc. craft where you each work on different parts of the project to put together as an art piece for your home. Try out a fun science experiment such as making slime, a volcano, lava lamp etc. The possibilities are endless! If you Google “family crafts/science projects/art projects” you will find a ton of ideas! 

4. Choose a place to go on a family hike or walk. Take turns as a family to pick where to go. You can try our different neighborhoods in your city, head to closeby national parks, lakes etc. Drive to the spot, park and head out and explore. It can be a workout style walk if your family enjoys that or it can just be a leisurely walk. You can try out different kinds of walks/runs/hikes each time. If you are wanting to go on a leisure style walk, it’s always fun in the city when you discover a new neighborhood. Stop for a treat at a fun ice cream or coffee shop that you find along the way.

5. Plan a special day off of work and school. It can be hard when one parent works shift work. You don’t all get the weekends off to go places as a family. So why not take a day off in the middle of the week? When your First Responder’s schedule has them off in the middle of the week, take the day off work and allow the kids to have a day off of school. Choose a fun educational place to go, such as the science center, zoo or a local museum. There will likely be way less people there, which is great for a First Responder with an Operational Stress Injury, and you and your family can enjoy the perks of cheaper weekday pricing. Yes, your kids are missing a day of school, but sometimes things you learn outside the classroom can be very valuable too. Just make sure that it isn’t a day where your child has a test or important school event happening. 


Even if your family can only find one day a month to have special family time, it can make a huge difference in your family's happiness. We only have so much time to connect with our kids while they are young. Take the opportunities to be together with your kids whenever you can. Turn off the notifications on your phone. Chat with each other while you are doing these activities, and try to be fully present with each other. Slow down and watch the joy they get in doing these family activities that you have planned out together. A little extra joy in our lives can truly go a long way!

If you are looking for some more resources to make positive changes in your First Responder family, consider downloading our Family Date Vision Board Here or on our website

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