Play Builds Family Memories and Reduces Stress
Have you ever noticed that at extended family gatherings much of the conversation is about past family experiences? “Do you remember the time Grandpa fell in the lake when we were fishing?” “I will never forget the trip we took to Disneyland” and so on. Once at a gathering of youth workers and their spouses, Cathy and I asked a purposely vague question, “What are a few of your family memories?” A minority of people in the group brought up negative memories about a divorce or some other trauma in the home; but by far, most of them recalled memories about a time their family played together or a trip their family took. We were amazed at how many of the stories were not about trips to amusement parks, but rather times together camping, traveling, fishing with Grandpa—times centered on the outdoors and fun.
When my friend Tic Long goes on a trip, his family has a motto: No bad food, no wrong turns and no bad decisions. Basically what they are saying is to cut loose, relax and enjoy each other’s company instead of worrying about the details of the trip.
The point is to go on trips, play together and build memories—big memories and small memories. A healthy family takes time to play. Sure, it takes energy to make those memories happen, but it’s worth it in our day and age when there is so much stress and pressure on families.
Play Reduces Family Stress and Tension
You are overstressed if you . . .
- Experience a continual sense of urgency and hurry or have no time to release and relax
- Have an underlying tension that causes a lot of sharp words, sibling quarrels and marital misunderstandings
- Are preoccupied with escaping, finding peace, going on vacation, quitting work or fixing family relationships
- Constantly feel frustration about getting things done
- Have a nagging desire to find a simpler life
None of these factors is unhealthy in and of itself, but when they are added together and you experience them for an extended period of time, it is time to put away your work and responsibilities and take at least an eight-day, do-nothing-but-play vacation to find some perspective. We can learn from the Europeans; their culture is much healthier than the American culture when it comes to vacations. The average European is given almost twice as many days off from work a year as the average American. How crazy we are to raise our blood pressure to dangerous heights and work our fingers to the bone, to be overcommitted and fatigued most days and then try to recuperate with a two-week vacation—only to go right back to the grind. Each of us knows deep down in our heart that something is terribly wrong with our lifestyle choices.
So lighten up and figure out a way to reduce your family’s stress and tension. If you can’t find eight days to relax and lighten up, take five; if you can’t find five days, then take two days; if you can’t find two days, see a counselor because you are either on the road to burnout, or your life and family are already a mess.