Everyone I know is busy! It's hard NOT to cram our schedules to the brim with our kids' activities, volunteer projects, work, religious services, and social engagements! We all know that it's easy to let our family relationships (whether with our partners or quality time with our kids) slide to last priority. Often the people that mean the most to us get taken for granted.
It doesn't have to be this way! With a little reprioritizing, we can improve our family relationships and connect with our families in meaningful ways.
5 ways to strengthen family relationships
1. Have fun. Are you too busy to have fun? Sadly, this is often the case. You can strengthen family relationships by having more fun together. Make a list of activities you enjoy as a family or new activities you'd like to try. These can be as simple as a bike ride or Monopoly game. Miniature golf or bowling are two of my favorites. They're both fun and interactive. People of all ages can enjoy them since they don't require a lot of skill or stamina. Often mini golf and bowling are even more fun when you aren't particularly good! If you want to try something that requires a little more planning, creating a theme night is a great way to engage the entire family. You can make it as simple or elaborate as you like. You can make or buy simple decorations, use special dishes, and try new foods and games. A couple of my favorites are Mexican night, which includes a make your own burrito bar and Mexican hats, and backwards night, when we eat dessert first.
2. Show your appreciation. We all know how important it is to feel appreciated. Unfortunately, it's normal to get comfortable and take each other for granted. It's not enough to feel positively toward your family; you also need to express love and appreciation in words and actions. And if you're not feeling positively about your family, challenge yourself to find one positive action or quality (no matter how small) that you appreciate and express that. Perhaps tomorrow, you can find two things to show gratitude for.
3. Support each other in good times and in bad. Make a point to show up to each other's activities. Cheer on your love ones' victories and console their losses. Being present physically and emotionally strengthens connection, trust, and intimacy.
4. Eat together. Many studies have shown that adolescents are happier and better adjusted in families who regularly eat dinner together. Even if you don't have kids, family meal time is a chance to reconnect and talk about your day. No matter if your family meal time is breakfast or take-out pizza, make a point to sit together, turn off electronics, and give each other your full attention while you eat.
5. Be a good listener. Listening is an active, not passive, endeavor. Listening shows that you're interested in what your family member has to say and who s/he is. Active listening includes giving your undivided attention, asking questions to clarify, being sure you understand before responding, making eye contact and giving verbal and non-verbal cues that you're listening.
Of course, some family conflicts and problems require more than family dinner and a game of bowling. Sometimes family counseling can help. However, no matter the state of your family relationships, making a small gesture of caring and gratitude is a good place to begin. You can strengthen family relationships when you slow down, notice what really matters, and go out of your way to express your love and appreciation, and have some fun. And the more you utilize these strategies for strengthening family relationships, the stronger they'll get.
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©2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
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