Today’s families are living under stressful circumstance and this causes strain on the entire household. Two working parents, single parents, families of mixed ethic or racial backgrounds, and same-sex parents all face different challenges in raising their children. National Family Month is meant to both celebrate the strength of families and offer ideas to support the challenges they face.
WHAT YOU CAN DOHappy families have strong family bonds. As the leaders of the family unit, parents must be responsible for strengthening and protecting these bonds. It doesn’t happen naturally in our hectic day-to-day lives. You can create this firm foundation by committing to these 10 essential practices that will strengthen your family’s relationships:
- Schedule Family Time – When you have teens, you will need to look at everyone’s schedule. Try to make a regular night, maybe once a week, when the entire family gets together for a fun activity. By keeping it on a regular schedule, everyone will know that they need to keep that night clear for family times. If you are going to plan a day trip, try to do it at least one month in advance. Post it on the family calendar and make sure that adults and teens are aware of the plan, so they don’t make other plans.
- Eat Meals Together – Studies have shown that eating meals together helps reinforce communication. Choose a few nights during the week when you expect everyone to gather around the dinner table. Don’t allow phones or other electronics, either. Just eat a meal and have a conversation together. If you unable to get together as a family for dinner because of busy schedules, try breakfast.
- Do Chores as a Family – Make cleaning your home or caring for the yard a responsibility of the whole family. Create a list of chores and have everyone sign up. Set up a time when everyone can tackle their chore at the same time. If your teens need a little more flexibility, give them a deadline to have their chore completed.
- Limit Electronic Usage – In this day of cell phones and apps, basic conversations are missing in the home which can exasperate problems. Human connections are more personal and effective. Create rules and guidelines for your children about limited time on their laptops, computers, and phones. Having in depth conversations that include deep listening to your child can create an environment where open dialogue create strength and prevent dangers, such as substance abuse and mental health issues.
- Have Family Meetings – Family meetings are a good time for everyone to check in with each other, air grievances, or discuss future (like a vacation!). These can be scheduled events, or you can make them impromptu and allow any member of the family to call a meeting if they feel the need. Start each of these meetings by reading your family mission statement. If you have a large family, you might also want to begin by asking if anyone has something for the ‘agenda.’ Write down what everyone wants to talk about and go through them one-by-one.
- Encourage Support – Family support is important, and you can build this bond that will last your kids a lifetime, even when they’re your age and after you’re gone. Encourage everyone to learn about things that are important to everyone else and to support each other through good and bad times. Share when something goes well at work. Ask your teen how their test went. Commiserate when your kid’s team loses a game. Celebrate good grades and reward good behavior by doing something special together.
- Take Time for Yourself – Parenting is a huge responsibility that you are required to fulfill every day. Even the U.S. Department of Labor requires companies to give employees two 10-minute breaks during a work day. Shouldn’t you do the same? The reality is that you will be a better parent when you take some time just for you. Take a break and read a chapter in a book, go to the salon, or play a round of golf. Do something you enjoy, even if only for a few minutes.
- Volunteer – Giving your time to make someone else’s life better is always a powerful learning experience. Learning important life lessons together will strengthen the relationship you have with your children. Spending a day at the local food bank or a weekend building a home for charity will be valuable experiences you can share throughout your life. Volunteering is a positive experience and it’s a good idea to demonstrate that with teens.
- Get Involved in Your Teen’s Interests – You don’t have to be the coach, but you can help with a fundraiser or snacks for the bus on an away game night. Ask where you can help, it will show your teen you care about what they are interested in.