Family Issues

Fun & Helpful Activities for Families:

Building “Security” and Stronger Relationships

By Megan Oravetz, MA, Genesis Counseling Center

Shared Attention Time

  • Rationale: Facilitates cooperation, co-regulation of emotion states, and perceived “availability” of participants.
  • Examples: Parent can participate with foster/adopted child in face-painting, board games, cutting cookie shapes, “pass the wink,” pass the ball, and more.


Activities Families can plan & enjoy together

  • Rationale: Family members create shared meaning together, by having siblings and parents join in. Foster/adopted children may find it hard to trust others or may have low self-confidence; these games allow them to cooperate and reach goals with the help of other family members.
  • Examples: Picnics (i.e., where siblings prepare a food category like sandwiches or dessert), fort-building, “Family Fun Night” (where children contribute to the planning).


“Trust” Games

  • Rationale: Children learn, in a fun way, that parents or family members are “still going to be there” at the end of the game. Children learn to cooperate together, take turns, and can develop a healthy trust in others.
  • Examples: Hide & Seek, Blindfold games (when appropriate), etc.


Exploration Games/Non-competitive Games

  • Rationale: Family members can spend time together, and learn together, without the pressure of having a “winner or loser”.
  • Examples: Nature walks, planting flowers, creating a story together, pick/tell a Bible story & dress up as characters [insert your idea here…]


“If I Were” Game

  • Rationale: Family members can (a) identify positive and negative feelings of themselves/others using an inanimate object – in a non-threatening way, (b) understand each others’ goals (via the ideal “If I Were” character), and (c) identify their own communication style as well as learn about others’.
  • Procedure: One person invents a sentence about himself or herself that relates to a metaphor (e.g., vehicles, animals, colors, foods, tools). For example, if the family is using “animals” as the metaphor, someone might say,“If I/he/she/this family were an animal, I/he/she/we would be a _______because ______”). Family members are then encouraged to react to the “chooser’s” choice – saying why he/she thinks the said object would be a good fit, or asking the “chooser” to explain why he/she chose a certain object (e.g., “I can see why you chose the color yellow – it’s kind of subdued but very special”).


These activities were, in part, adapted from:

Archer, C. & Gordon, C. (2013). Reparenting the child who hurts: A guide to healing developmental trauma and attachments. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hiebert, W.J. (1981). De-escalating couples’ power struggles. In A.S. Gurman (ed.), Questions and answers in the practice of family therapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Sherman, R. &Fredman, N. (1986). Handbook of structured techniques in marriage and family therapy. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel Publishers.