5 ways summer reunions bridge family divides

Research suggests that one out of five families is affected by estrangement or the disconnection of a family member. Adding to that statistic is the fact that many families have members spread around the world, and the one time they can all come together is during family reunions. July is Family Reunion month, a time when families embrace reconnecting with each other and make time to plan the gathering. Family members feel less awkward and anticipate reuniting, perhaps meeting new in-laws or significant others they haven’t met before.


Sometimes families struggle with each other’s lifestyles or life choices, which can make the concept of getting together feel like an awkward social experience. If you haven’t seen one of your relatives for a long time or aren’t particularly fond of one of your family members, it can be difficult to converse at all. Think of the reunion as an opportunity to bridge the gap and rebuild disconnected family ties. Below are five ways you can connect at your next family reunion.

1. Invite all family members, set a positive tone, and create an inviting atmosphere. Let everyone know, including disconnected family members, how much you’d love to see them. Send a heartfelt message via text, email, or in the mail, telling them how much their presence means to you.

2. Have a show and tell session at your family reunion. Ask everyone to bring an heirloom, photo, or something else that reminds them of family to share. The show and tell times are full of laughter, especially when you encourage everyone, including your small children, teens, and family members from far away who join you.

3. Family meals are more fun when everyone shares the load. If you plan an overnight stay, encouraging everyone to participate helps foster communication, and family members enjoy their time more. When disconnected family members are accepted and encouraged to participate, they feel closer to their family. Consider a family bake-off where the best dessert wins a small prize or asking everyone to share a family recipe, which can help bring connection and remind each family member of the memories they share.

4. Game time. Sometimes playing a game is the quickest and easiest way to get everyone reconnected. Splitting up family members to play on different teams forces them to get to know each other. Focus on non-competitive games because competitive games can instigate unresolved issues in the family and bring them to the forefront. Setting up a variety of game tables, puzzles, and physically active games can help people find the place that feels best for them.

5. Night walks for the active and campfire stories for those who want to sit and bond. Having a campfire lit and glowing at night is a wonderful family reunion tradition. People can sit and listen as well as share to the extent they feel comfortable. For many disconnected families, this can be an intimate venue for healing. Night walks are great for kids, allowing them to listen to different insects, birds, and sounds while being with family members, creating unforgettable memories. Kids sleep better when they are close to nature.

Family reunions are more necessary now in our fragmented world than ever. Rebuilding relationships takes patience, understanding, and effort from all members involved. Focus on making your family reunion a welcoming, safe place where everyone can express themselves and feel closer. Every aspect of our life now began at home with our family. Reconnecting with the people who have known you since you were small leaves you feeling more grounded and connected, no matter how far you roam.