How to Include Everyone in the Family

Family reunions bring together people from all walks of life. Cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents reunite to enjoy a week or two enjoying each other’s company. As picturesque as this sounds, family reunions do present difficulties; namely – how do you bring a group of such diverse ages and (likely) interests together successfully?

Below, I’ve shared two ways to help everyone in the family feel included around the table. Follow these tips, and you’re sure to make the time enjoyable for everyone – youngsters and oldies alike.

Tip #1 – Share the cooking load

Family Cooking

If you’re like my family, most of the cooking responsibilities fall on a few people – usually my aunts. This creates two problems: 1) my aunts become exhausted by the end of the week and 2) the other groups are disengaged from an important part of the planning process. Our new solution to this conundrum is to schedule out the meals and spread the responsibility. Each dinner is assigned to a different group of people. These assignments can be made by family, by age group, or randomly – whichever way works best for your situation. The assigned group has complete reign over the menu and preparation of one meal. This simple change has proved to not only spread the load, but also invest everyone in the best part of any reunion – FOOD! Plus, now you can prepare meals that YOU want to eat! You’ll be surprised at the variety of dishes that show up.

Take this a step further and assign the clean-up responsibility to groups as well (especially groups that don’t enjoy cooking). This means that those who cook don’t have to clean up and those that clean up don’t have to cook. Trust me, everyone will thank you.

Tip #2 – Charades…with a twist

Play Charades

When I was younger, the family reunion game of choice was Rook – a complicated card game that could only accommodate a small group of players. At night, I would wander downstairs after dinner only to sit on the sidelines as the adults engaged in their lengthy game of choice. While there is a place for small group games, family reunions should really plan a few larger-scale games that can include the entire group – young and old alike.

I suggest Charades. In any form, this game appeals to all ages and can be played “on the fly” while also catering to a large group. Make it more interesting by adding a few twists. Here, you’ll find my family’s own version of the timeless game:

Step #1: pass out slips of paper and pens; have everyone write down 3-5 names of famous individuals (celebrities, authors, athletes, politicians, etc.) or movie names; put all the names in a bowl.

Step #2: divide into teams.

Step #3: ROUND #1 have players come up, one by one, alternating between teams to take a turn; during each turn, the player has 45 seconds to explain (using words and actions) a name they have drawn from the bowl; when their team guesses the name, they can move on to the next one, etc.; once 45 seconds are up, the next team gets a turn; keep score as you go.

Step #4: ROUND #2 return all of the names to the bowl and start over with one caveat: in this round, players can only use actions to describe the name. Because the names have already been shared in round #1, this shouldn’t be impossible.

Step #5: ROUND #3 return all of the names to the bowl and start over again, this time with another caveat: in this round, players can use only ONE word to describe the name. As you can see, each round increases in difficulty.

Step #6: add up the scores and let the winning team celebrate (make things more interesting by placing a wager!)

The great thing about this game is that it includes everyone. Each player is able to submit names which means they will be able to guess at least some of the people being described, and once you hit round #2 and #3, the group should already be familiar with many of the names. Plus, what would you give to see your serious Uncle Rob acting out “Britney Spears” for the entire group? Say goodbye to the boredom of exclusive games and hello to laughter the entire family can enjoy.

Reunions should not just be about coexistence, they should be about genuinely having fun together – a real rarity these days. So, take deliberate steps to engage your entire family, bringing them around the table to reminisce about old memories while also making a lot of new ones.

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