In these days of two working parents, tightly scheduled children, video games, television and the Internet, its more difficult than ever to develop strong family ties. According to a 2009 survey by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, 28 percent of participants reported spending less time with family members and more time on the Internet. Families who don’t develop close ties are less likely to support each other in times of need or celebration as children move out of the home. Make family time a priority in your household to keep your family unit strong and close.
1.Eat dinner together as much as possible. According to the “Time” magazine website, families who eat dinner together on a regular basis are less likely to have children who develop behavioral and psychological problems. Dinnertime is also the ideal opportunity to get everyone together after being apart all day. Let everyone have time to share their day. Encourage reluctant teenagers to say at least one thing about the day they had.
2.Set designated family time. Set a weekly day and time when everyone gets together as a family. Allow no friends, no phone calls and no excuses. This is a time when you can have a family meeting to bring up any issues and concerns, make announcements and establish family rules. You could also have a family game night, where you break out the board games or even video games, as long as everyone gets to participate. Another idea is to cook together, giving everyone, young and old, a role in getting a family dinner ready.
3.Start family traditions. Traditions help create continuity and family connectedness with the little rituals exclusive to your family. These traditions also create positive memories and fond reminiscing, and help each member of the family feel better about themselves, their position in the family, and each other. Traditions can be simple or complex, such as breakfast in bed on your birthday, the youngest child opening the first gift on Christmas, the yearly camping trip, or even the weekly pizza night.
4.Work through conflict immediately. Do not let disagreements fester into deep-seated resentment and anger. If a family member doesn’t feel validated or supported, or is hurt by another family member, an irreparable rift can form if nothing is done. Teach your children from the start to work through situations with their siblings before the day is over so they avoid leftover anger. If the conflict is family-wide, call a family meeting and hash it out. Give everyone a chance to talk and state their feelings calmly. Do not allow name-calling. Encourage compromise. Sit there as long as it takes to find a solution that satisfies everyone.
5.Think as a team unit. Just like being on a sports team, looking at your family as a team helps everyone feel a sense of belonging, loyalty and unity. Encourage teamwork to tackle tasks no one wants to do, such as spring cleaning or shoveling the driveway. Call yourselves by your last name, such as “Team Johnson.” The whole team must support each other whenever possible. For example, go to a family member’s soccer game to cheer him on. Show off your family pride with team T-shirts, which can be worn on family outings, and are ideal for identifying your younger children in a crowd.