The paradox of families is that the people we love the most are the ones we most easily take for granted. If the loved ones in your life have become more like the tapestry of your home than the tapestry of your life, it’s time to take action. Shake things up by introducing some small and simple disciplines that could have a profound effect on your relationship together.
SHARE A MEAL TOGETHER AT LEAST ONCE A DAY
Eating together is one of the great rituals of human beings, yet it’s a ritual that’s slipping away for many of us. Busy days, unsynchronized schedules, the ease of fast food and take outs, and the decline in cooking skills are all part of it. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Further reading: The Importance of Eating Together
If you cannot have dinner together, make sure you gather around the breakfast table instead. And then, of course, use the opportunity to talk with each other. Ask everyone about their day, what they have done – or what they are expecting of the day if it’s breakfast time. It’s a great way of staying involved in each other’s lives rather than acting like ships passing in the night.
You can also try The One Conversation Rule at dinner time as Michael Hyatt has written about on his blog. This is where you only have one conversation at a time, allowing for everyone to be heard and for a deeper, more meaningful conversation to take place.
SAY “I’M SORRY”
Families have a tendency to bring out the best – and the worst – in us. When we get into an argument with a family member it’s all too easy to shout or stomp off and slam doors, behavior we would be embarrassed to display towards anyone else.
Apologizing when you are in the wrong is a simple, but profound gesture. It’s a great way to puncture a possible conflict before it gets a chance to escalate, and it opens the way for forgiveness when there has been animosity. We should all take greater pride in being able to say I’m sorry than in carrying a grudge. Admitting to one’s faults is strength, not a weakness.
Not everyone has mastered the art of giving a sincere apology, but it can be learnt. The best way to teach your child this is by example. If you’ve lost your temper with her, ruined her favorite teddy bear in the wash, accidentally hurt her or similar, get down to her level and tell her you’re sorry. And, this is very important, say it without making a disclaimer. No “I’m sorry, but …” or anything else that will lessen your apology. Just stop talking after you have said you’re sorry.
Further reading: Learning to Say “I’m Sorry”
The same goes for your partner of course. Just because your partner is an adult and understands rationally that your sudden flare of anger was due to low blood sugar or fatigue doesn’t mean he or she won’t appreciate an apology when you have calmed down again.
SET SCREEN-FREE HOURS
Social media is a great way of keeping you together when you are a part, but it can also keep you apart when you are together. Consider introducing a house rule that states that all screens are off at certain times. Dinner time should be a minimum, but you could also set it from the kids get home from school until after dinner. No blaring TV, no Netflix marathon on the iPad, no obsessive checking of mobile phones – for kids and adults alike.
According to American Academy of Pediatrics, studies have shown that “excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.”
Further reading: AAP on Media and Children
If you’re a family of screen addicts, expect some arguments, some boredom, maybe even some awkward moments, to start with. But give yourself time to be screen free and relearn how to be together, to talk, hang out, and do non-screen activities, together and apart.
GO FOR WALKS TOGETHER
It’s something to be said for getting out of the house and your familiar surroundings to see things afresh. However, it doesn’t have to involve long journeys or exotic destination; it can be as simple as putting on your shoes and going for a walk. As I have mentioned before, movement can aid your creativity. It can also get conversations going. Or maybe you get to discover things together.
Further reading: The benefits of walking with kids
Make a habit of going for walks together, whether it’s around the block or on hiking trips. Let the journey together be the objective of the walk, not the destination or the time spent. Allow for surprise findings, sudden sights, deep conversation or just plain silliness.
Do you practice any of these disciplines?
What little things does your family do to stay united?