For adults, we typically connect over a cuppa. But connecting with kids is more likely to be across a tennis court or through a climbing maze.
So, for parents who want to deepen the relationships they have with their children, stepping outside with a racket in hand brings many benefits.
Apart from improved memory, regular exercise provides many benefits including improving metabolism, strengthening muscles, reducing stress and lowering cholesterol.
There is no better way for families to exercise regularly together than sport. Backyard cricket, volleyball in the swimming pool and half-court basketball have all been traditional favourites among Aussie families.
What sports are ideal for family bonding?
If you’re planning to use sport as a way to form closer bonds with your children, some forethought is required.
Playing cricket on a full-sized oval is unlikely to result in family bonding and closer relationships being formed.
You want to play a sport where all the players can be within talking distance of one another. That’s why modified sports like backyard cricket are ideal. Relationships are typically strengthened through a combination of actions and words.
You also want a family-friendly sport where all levels of sporting ability can be accommodated. Again — using the example of backyard cricket — grandma might not be confident enough to bowl like Glenn McGrath, but she’d be happy to field under the palm tree in the corner of the yard.
Finally, choose sports where the rules are clear. And agree to the rules (and any modifications to the rules) before starting to play. All your best laid plans for family togetherness will be dashed if sibling rivalry takes over!
The mental health benefits of sport
In addition to the physical and relational benefits of family-friendly sport, it also delivers positive mental health outcomes.
Sport helps to build resilience in children as they learn how to lose with dignity. Through the process of trying, failing, losing and winning children learn how to cope with disappointment.
Another mental health benefit of sport is that it teaches children to regulate their emotions appropriately. Children who play sport (particularly team sport), aren’t typically “overcome with joy” nor “bitterly disappointed” when they reach adulthood because they’ve learnt how to control their emotions through playing sport as a child.
Children who play sport develop positive self-esteem through the achievement of goals. Setting goals, and then striving to achieve those goals, is the best way to improve self-esteem.
A family that plays together, stays together
As you can appreciate, the benefits of the whole family having fun by playing sport together are wide-ranging.
Just remember, when playing sport as a family, focus on regular participation, enjoyment and effort. Keep the timeframes short (especially if you have younger members in your family) and reward your children at the end.
Sport delivers healthy bodies, healthy minds and deepening relationships. And when all family members get involved, the bonds that are formed and memories made, will last a lifetime.