With tight schedules, calendars bursting with scheduled activities, and technology competing for our “real life” face-to-face connections, it’s easy for families to feel fragmented, and the bonds to loosen. Here are some tips to help strengthen those bonds and foster family identity, togetherness and a solid sense of belonging.
Eat family meals together—without the TV, phones or other distractions. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, sharing meals opens the channels of communication, providing a chance for everyone to discuss life, school, and other family concerns. Plus, studies show that kids whose families eat together have better nutritional habits, a better sense of well-being, earn higher grades, are more motivated in school, and have reduced chances of substance abuse.
Hold family meetings. It’s a great opportunity to share what’s going on with the family and allow every member to air any grievances openly, such as how they feel about family chores, for example. Gathering once a week where everyone listens respectfully to one another can foster positive problem-solving and a strong sense of “we’re all on the same team.”
Share appreciation. Make it a habit of letting each family member know they are accepted and respected for who they are, offer praise when praise is due, and express gratitude for one another. Make it a habit to celebrate your family members’ accomplishments.
Express emotions in a respectful manner. Stress, change and setbacks can trigger strong emotions, sparking angry outbursts or hurtful remarks that can tear a family apart. Give kids the skills to manage reactions to distress (and modeling your own positive reactions). Foster an optimistic outlook when things go wrong. These behaviors can help family members withstand and rebound from challenges and knit everyone together.
Carve out one-on-one time. Rushing to make meals or shuttling between activities can squeeze out time to connect meaningfully with loved ones. Some suggestions: Where possible, dedicate the first fifteen minutes after arriving home to check in with your children. Share one good thing and one bad thing that happened during your day, and support each other when needed. Mark the calendar when you will spend private time with each child. Dedicate an hour after dinner or after your children go to sleep to spend time alone with your spouse.
Plan a monthly or weekly game night. Whether your family enjoys board games or playing catch, sharing games promotes levity, teamwork, friendly competition, and could be the highlight of everyone’s month! Why not double the fun and invite another family to join you?
Go on regular adventures. It does not have to be an extravagant vacation. Simply visiting a nature exhibit in a new town, exploring a new trail, or even signing up for a local fun run offers shared delight, bringing members of all ages together in new and different ways.
Serve your community together. No matter if you help stock a food bank, volunteer at a clothing drive or participate in a walk-a-thon, helping those less fortunate helps everyone feel more compassionate, empathetic and connected to other people–including to members of their own family.