The wish to seek and have a deep sense of family connection and commitment is universal. Ask people what is most important to them and their first answer is always the same–their family. In healthy families, there is a sense of cohesion or family togetherness. Without it, we feel more like strangers than kin.
What gives families a strong sense of connection?
The answer is very simple although often a challenge. We must spend quality time together, just hanging out, or if separated by geography, spend time talking and listening to one another. We need to know that we can count on each other for the relationship to be close. In research on happy loving families, sharing time together is made a priority to build trust and intimacy.
One of my favorite times to talk to my mother is when I am chopping vegetables for dinner with my headset on. We take those minutes to share details of our day, and my mom always asks me what’s for dinner. My husband has long weekly talks with his mom who lives out of town when he goes on hikes to get his exercise.It often helps to schedule talking and listening time in whatever schedule “book” you use, committing yourself to family time instead of slipping into the habit of watching TV, computer surfing, video gaming or answering one more email.
What are the benefits of spending quality time with loved ones?
Only by making the time to share the details of our daily lives as well as our successes, hardships, dreams and disappointments can we reap the rewards of our intimate bonds. Researchers at Brigham Young University analyzed results from 148 studies from the last century and found that social support not only makes us happier to be alive but also literally adds to our longevity, increasing our survival by 50 percent.
Another important ritual for spending regular time together is the family dinner. There is a growing body of research that reveals just how significant this time is for the physical and emotional health of the kids. Routines and rituals such as this provide consistency and structure which not only help families to feel more connected but also help to buffer the negative effects of stress.
Unfortunately, twenty-first century families are more isolated than ever before. With both parents working more hours than ever and with the demands of work infiltrating family time via computers and cell phones, most everyone we talk to complains about the same thing. There’s just not enough time!
TIP #1: Remind yourself in the following week to take the time each day–even if only minutes– to connect with your family members.
TIP #2: Remember to use the precious times you already have to talk and listen rather than remain plugged into cell phones or iPods.
TIP #3: Catch the moments in between–like driving in the car, eating a snack, walking the dog–to share thoughts and feelings with your loved ones.
TIP #4: Create a daily ritual of checking in. Any habit practiced for thirty days becomes the new normal.
TIP #5: Schedule talking and listening time in whatever calendar system you use, committing yourself to family time instead of slipping into the habit of watching TV, computer surfing, video gaming or answering one more email.
If you have discovered other creative ways to connect with family, please let us know so we can share them with other families like yours.