Families grow apart for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they do it gradually as people grow up and create their own separate lives, while other times an incident may split a family apart. Divorces, arguments, family feuds, and small squabbles all create water under the bridge that gets in the way of close relationships. Nevertheless, these changes are rarely permanent. Any member of the family can take steps to bridge the gap and improve relationships.

You've heard the saying "a family that prays together stays together," and while it may be true that families can bond through their common religious or spiritual practice, that isn't exactly the only way that families can stay close.

Trying something new together can be a real bonding experience. Building trust, working together, failing and laughing about it can go a long way in improving the health of family relationships.

1. Learn something together


There are few things more fun than laughing together at failed attempts to try something new. Learning how to surf together, for instance, can build trust relationships between parents and teens. Not only do you get to enjoy a warm, tropical climate, far away from the noise of a city and work obligations, you are building your skills together and bonding over the experience.

Learning to play musical instruments as a family can be a great bonding experience. Family jam sessions in the basement will unite your family in a common love of music. And music has been shown to relieve anxiety and elevate mood. Even a spontaneous family dance party could do the trick.

Not a fan of water or music? Try archery, cooking lessons, martial arts, pottery, or painting lessons. There are so many options, the sky is the limit (hey there's an idea — skydiving!)

2. Exercise together


Families who exercise as a group not only enjoy the health benefits of regular exercise, but studies have actually shown that exercising together improves happiness in relationships. Similar studies have also shown that committing to working out together means you are working out more, which is better for your health.

Hiking is also a great way to bond as a family. Conversations on ambling mountain paths, helping each other up a particularly steep boulder, and resting together at the summit after a great hike, all go a long way in helping to improve those relationships.

3. Play together


Family game nights are a great reason to get together. There are lots of fun game options out there, depending on the age and skill level of the players. Friendly competition, banter, and the teasing and laughter that goes with playing games together can be a great way to bond.

Playing together doesn't necessarily mean that you need to stay home, though. Bounce houses and trampoline parks are becoming more prevalent, and don't forget the playground of the local parks in your area for some fun in the fresh air. There's nothing like seeing a fourteen-year-old rediscovering the monkey bars.

No matter how you go about it, any effort to improve family relationships is worthwhile. Strained family relationships are one of the key things people identify when they talk about their depression. Healthy family relationships are a major factor in good mental health. Plus it just feels better to be close to your family. Try some of these activities together - you might be surprised at the closeness (and laughter) you might get from it.