Here are some ideas to help you reconnect in a meaningful way as a family!
Creating Memories for Your Kids
The seemingly simple act of sharing a meal has been proven to help strengthen family bonds. While it may mean you have to leave work earlier or to schedule work for later in the evening, sitting down to dinner with your children is worth the effort. It’s a chance to discuss what is going on in their lives and to answer any questions they may have. Make it an enjoyable event. Celebrate any special things your children may have done that day.
Whether it’s as simple a job as replacing a washer in the bathroom faucet, or a larger job such as painting the walls of a bedroom, regardless of age there are things that your children can do to help. Just make sure to make the tasks age appropriate so they can feel a sense of accomplishment. Sharing in a repair or home improvement task is a great way to not only bond but also to teach your children skills they can use themselves when they have their own home.
A walk after dinner is a time for talking while getting some easy exercise. Children may feel more comfortable bringing up issues that may be concerning them when out of the house. You could play games such as ‘I Spy’, everyone taking a turn each. Stopping briefly to talk to neighbors will help instill a sense of community in your children and allow them the chance to see how you interact with other adults.
Almost everyone loves pleasant surprises, and perhaps no more so than children. If you leave for work in the morning before they get up you could leave them a ‘Good Morning’ note, telling them that you love them and are looking forward to seeing them at dinner, and hearing about all that has gone on in their day. Hiding a note in their lunch box is another way of providing them with a pleasant surprise and makes them feel happy and loved.
Either reading a book to your children or reading books individually while sitting in companionable silence on the couch together is a great way to connect. Choosing a book can be a shared experience. For younger children reading a bedtime story is a memory for both child and parent to treasure.
When practical take the time to drive or walk your child to school. Make the most of this time however short to be encouraging. Share your pride in their progress with them. Send them into class with a feeling of empowerment and excitement about all they will learn that day.
Unless you live a very long way from a city there are always fun things to plan and do. Sit down with your children and have them list all the things they can think of that they would like to see and do. Planned outings can be as simple as a picnic on the beach or going to get an ice cream cone at their favorite shop. There are museums to visit and many of them change their featured displays on a regular basis so don’t rule out going 2 or 3 times a year. A scheduled outing gives both you and your children something to look forward to.
Tell your children about what your life was like growing up. Go through photograph albums together and explain what is happening in each photo, who the people are and where the photo was taken. Make sure that your children know about their grandparents lives too. Let them discover just how much has changed over the years and yet how many things are still the same. Instill a sense of family history in them.
Connecting with Teens
The life of a teen can be incredibly hectic. Between school, sports, hobbies and spending time with their friends, sometimes it seems that all they come home for is to sleep and eat.
Seize any opportunity you can to talk to your teenage children. Teenagers have busier lifestyles than smaller children, with sports to play and outings with their friends and so it can be difficult to find a few minutes to talk. Drive them to their sports games and talk on the way. Encourage them to open up to you and share what they are feeling. This is a stressful time in a child’s life and it is important that they still know you are there for them.
Today’s teenagers are very aware of issues affecting their planet. Whether it be homelessness, global warming or keeping our waterways clean, your teenage child is likely interested in something that is important to the future of the planet. Find something you can both do together to make things better. You could sign up to do volunteer work together or plan your own way to have a positive impact.
Many teens play sports or have other interests and hobbies that provide them with things to do in their free time. Find a way to share one of their interests with them. If you cannot actively be involved in their interests at the very least encourage them to talk about them. Get them to help you understand what it is about that particular interest that keeps them fascinated by it. Go to their sports games as often as you can. Participate as much as possible.
While you may not be able to connect on a face-to-face basis as often as you would like modern technology such as the smartphone makes communicating with your teen as easy as sending text messages or chatting online. They may not want to add you as a friend on Social Media sites but that should not stop you from sending them a message every so often.
Teenagers spend a lot of their time outside of the home and often it is with their friends. Get to know who your child is spending time with by inviting them to bring their friends home. Let them know that they are encouraged to have social events in the home such as a movie night. Talk to your child’s friends and get to know a little about each of them. Accepting your child’s friends will help you connect with your child.
Make a time each day when you are available to your child. It may be just a few minutes before they go to bed, or before you leave for work. Let your child know that those few minutes or half an hour is their time to spend with you, and that you will set aside everything else to spend that time with them. If they have any concerns or need advice they will know that during their special time each day they can talk to you.
Caring for Parents
As your parents age, retire and find themselves with more free time on their hands, the potential for loneliness creeps in. Make sure to let your parents know that you are always just a phone call away and that you care about them.
If you live a long enough distance from your parents that visiting regularly is impractical make sure that you call or text them at least once a week. Encourage them to share their concerns with you and offer advice and assistance when and if you can. Let them know that you love them and that their well-being is important to you.
Just as much as your parents love to hear your voice, so too would they love to receive a phone call from their grandchildren. It doesn’t have to be a long call, but encourage your kids to take the time to talk to their grandparents.
If your parents live close enough by that getting together is not a problem make one meal a week a time for you all to eat dinner together. If Mom loves to cook she may like to host dinner at her house. You could take them out for a meal once in awhile. Take turns to host the meal.
Parents often have favorite recipes that have been handed down to them by their parents and will in turn hand them down to you and your children. Choose a special dish and get together with your parents to help prepare and cook it. This is a great opportunity to talk, tell jokes, reminisce and take photographs.
There are many awesome ways to connect as a family. These are just a few. Take the time to do things together as a family.