Let’s face it. Life is busy. Sometimes too busy. And in this busyness, family togetherness can often get left behind. Work, errands to run, play dates, school, activities, sports, church, appointments, and social activities may be necessary, but so is family. Making family a priority may take some changes, but it isn’t too late to build strong family bonds even if your kids are wanting to go off in their own directions.
Strong family bonds can begin with three simple changes:
- Talking and Listening
Talking is a great way to build relationships. But more important than talking is listening. Listen to each other. Truly listen. Sometimes when we are quiet we can hear the most.
If you are all apart during the day, take some time together at the end of the day and talk together. Sometimes one-on-one works better for this. Actively listen and make sure to let your child or spouse know something you like about them or what they did that day.
If you are together for a good chunk of the day, take some time to stop and really listen and communicate with those you love. Even little ones can engage in simple conversations that will help you get to know more about your child.
The words “I love you” aren’t overused. Use them. Often.
Learning about your children’s interests can help open up communication too. If your child knows 400 Pokemon, you don’t need to learn all 400, but if you learn about some of them you can start conversations. My boys are into Doctor Who. I watched most of the episodes and it has opened up communication about the show and the characters. I tell you that it is much different from situations where I didn’t know much about my child’s interest. Being able to carry on a conversation about my child’s interest has led to many bonding moments.
Don’t you wish days would have more than 24 hours? It is difficult to fit things in sometimes. But time together is important if you want to build strong family bonds. Sometimes it takes making a deliberate choice to change things in order to have time together.
Every family situation is different. How you carve out time in your family will need to fit your family and it won’t necessarily match up with what other families are doing. A weekend activity, dinner together at the table each night, talking over hot chocolate/coffee each morning, game night, or movie night are all good options.
Share your interests with others in your family. Your excitement for a topic may be ignited in one of your children. If you love to cook, introduce your kids to cooking. If you love to run, bring your child along sometimes. Yes, sometimes it is more effort on your part to cook with your kid. And the mess! It may be true that your relaxing interest may stop being relaxing to you if you include your child. But if you are looking at this long-term, it can be an investment into your relationship. This doesn’t mean that every time you do your activity, you need to include your child, but do it some of the time.
Join your children in their interests too. Be invested in their interests. If your young child likes dinosaurs, get down on the floor and play dinosaurs with her. If your child likes making mud pies, spend some time pretending to eat the creation your child just made for you.
Play. Play with your kids and have fun together. Take some time and build that blanket fort in the living room. If your child enjoys coloring, sit down and color with him sometimes. Snuggle up with a favorite book before bedtime each night.
You don’t need to do it all, but pick something and do it consistently.
- Support and Encourage Each Other
Providing a supportive and encouraging environment can go a long way in building strong relationships. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true. To build relationships, our words to each other should build each other up. I’ve found it helpful to sit back and think whether more negative or positive things are coming out of my mouth. Am I only telling my kids of things that they didn’t do properly or am I primarily mentioning things they have done well? Am I doing the same with my spouse? Do I find myself complaining about my spouse or kids to others?
Empathy is an essential element. It may not be a big deal to you if your child received the wrong plate color, but it was a big enough deal to the child that it caused tears. If our first response is empathy, it can totally change how the child responds in the moment and it can strengthen our connection to each other.
In the busyness of life, it is important to remember that we can’t do it all. Make communication a priority, support and encourage one another, and carve out some time for your family to be together. Bonding doesn’t happen overnight. It may take time and consistency, but it is so worth it!