Do the quality of family connections matter?
An experience with my kids opened my eyes to the answer when I wasn’t really even looking.
Recently, I took both of our boys, ages 6 and 4, to the beach by myself. Knowing how much energy they have and that I was outnumbered, I gave up any dreams of a relaxing day in the sun, and dove headfirst into a full day of sand castle building, wave jumping, creature catching, and everything else the boys could dream up.
By the end of the day, I was sandy, exhausted, slightly burnt, and most of all, happy.
And it was here that it hit me – my kids were so much more fun when I’m not distracted.
I spend so much “time with my family” half in the moment; half tending to my to-do lists or catching up on the Facebook drama that everything becomes a distracting interruption.
It’s no wonder that those strong family connections are passing me by.
Meaningful family time is hard to come by when we’re distracted and not fully present where we are.
Quality family time is essential to creating lasting family connections. These family connections in turn build strong family bonds that strengthen both the relationships in the family, as well as every other relationship.
Do you agree?
Do you know what’s keeping your family from growing together?
An Overview of Contents
Family Time is Disappearing
We live in a fast-paced world. With the ability to connect socially, shop, manage tasks and be entertained literally at our fingertips every waking second, a whole new world is opened, while it seems like an old one is lost.
Face to face connection is becoming a thing of the past. Families are gathered around the dinner table staring at their phones and connected to the outside world while missing out on the most important connections right in front of them.
Cell phones aren’t the only cause of this decline of family connection, though. There are so many things vying for our attention that our family can get lost in the shuffle.
After-school activities, work projects, hobbies, watching TV – the list of distraction is endless. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, and everyone needs time to fill up their cup. However, with super-full plates, families are scattered and losing touch as every spare minute is filled.
Meaningful family connections are often lost as we rocket through life. It’s easy to forget that this life isn’t about simply getting from Point A to Point B most efficiently, but rather the journey it takes to get there.
We crave connection and community – to be understood and loved for who we are, and have the chance to reciprocate – and we’re shortchanging our families when we allow things and activities to get in the way of this.
It takes purpose and resolve to fight for family connection.
Growing our relationships with our spouse and kids is such a gift we have been given, and we’re going to look at ways to embrace this gift to the fullest instead of overlooking it, or taking it for granted.
With a little resolve and planning, the fulfillment of meaningful family connection is worth the effort, as we live genuinely with those closest to us.
“Is this what family is like: the feeling that everyone’s connected, that with one piece missing, the whole thing’s broken?” ~ Trenton Lee Stewart
Why Family Connections Matter
Our family bonds are the building blocks for every other relationship in our lives. We are around them the most, they have the most opportunity to see us at our truest self, and it is our opportunity to be vulnerable and still loved for (or in spite of) who we are. Family is forever.
Children learn how to interact with others by watching their parents. They see modeled everyday before them how to treat a spouse, how to raise kids, how to manage and resolve conflict, the art of compromise, and choosing to love.
This can be a lot of pressure for parents, who are often under the wire with deadlines at work and juggling one too many activities in everyday life.
When we take the time to establish these family bonds, it allows opportunities for your family to see your heart, and not just your busy, frenzied actions. It reinforces that they are important to you – more important than everything else on the schedule.
Your family is encouraged, knowing that you want to get to know them better, you want to be a part of their lives, and you want to pursue a relationship with them. Talk about a confidence builder!
When your family is connected, the rest of the difficult world is so much easier to deal with. What really matters, what you’re coming home to at the end of a long, hard, day, is love. These meaningful bonds provide the stability and steadfast loyalty in your life (and theirs) that sustains you.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” ~ Mother Teresa
Scheduling Family Time
Just like anything else important in your life, you need to write down family time on your calendar. I know you’re busy. You know you’re busy. That’s why it is even more important to pick times and mark them on your calendar so they won’t get pushed out by all the other pressing activities!
Spend some time really thinking about what you want for a family time. There is no right answer here – any time with your family that works in your schedule is what you need.
Some of these ideas (or any combination of these!) may work well for your family, or at least spark an idea for your family goals.
Ideas for Scheduling Family Time
- 15 minutes each night after dinner for entire family time
- Once a month weekend outings for entire family
- One-on-one time with each kid at a set frequency
- Date Night with Spouse weekly (at home dates are a great way to connect!)
Once you’ve decided together what you’re aiming for, sit down with the calendar and block out these times. These are the most important commitments you will make when it comes to spending meaningful time together.
How can you grow closer if you’re never together? By writing these appointments in your calendar, you are acknowledging the importance of your family to you.
Once you have designated times on the calendar to spend connecting with your family, you then have to show up. It’s not enough just to be physically there, with your mind 1,000 miles away checking your mental to-do list or distracted by notifications on your phone.
With the time you do have with your family, you have to guard, protect, and be intentional with to find that meaningful connection.
Unplug from the rest of the world for a little bit and plug into your family, fully present. Choose to actually hear the heart in what they are saying, and respond thoughtfully. Choose to laugh and to love big.
These moments, however small, are your opportunity to build strong bridges to meaningful connection and strong family bonds.
If you’re used to only being half-there, this will take a lot of effort to start, especially if you are a multi-tasker. Get rid of distractions, and really work on focusing on your family members.
Check in with yourself often to make sure you are fully present, and do everything in your power to be all there. As you practice this, it will get easier each time!
10 Ideas for Creating Meaningful Family Connections
Here are some affordable, easy, and practical ways to spending purposeful family time together for building strong family relationships.
1. Phone-Free Zones
Block off times of the day where no electronics are allowed. Put them away where you won’t be tempted, and commit to connecting with the people right in front of you.
It might be hard and awkward at first (as cell phones have become almost a part of who we are!), but we have to remove the barriers before we can experience connection
2. Board Games
When everyone gathers around a game, it’s immediately a common denominator. Add a competitive spirit and you’re set up for a fun night of bonding. Here are some of our favorite choices for games based on ages:
- Younger Children
- Stone Soup
- Chutes and Ladders
- Older Children
- Ticket to Ride
- Would You Rather
- Spot It
3. Take a Walk
Get outside and get moving together! For boys, I’ve noticed it is easier to connect as they are busy doing something. As we walk side by side, they open up and share their heart more. Plus, the exercise is good for everyone!
4. Family Meal
Have one meal a day (or as often as you can!) where you all sit down together to eat. If dinner isn’t possible because of all the activities you have in the evening, consider breakfast!
5. Take Turns Sharing a Hobby
Each member of the family has unique characteristics and passions. Allow this to fuel some meaningful time together, as they share their heart about something they love, and you get to know them better, and you give it a try as well!
6. Fishbowl Questions
Write some thought-provoking questions on slips of paper, and take turns pulling one out and sharing answers. Some great questions are:
- If you could have a “do-over” on anything for today, what would it be?
- If you could only pick one thing to do all day, what would it be?
- What are your “highs” and “lows” for today?
- If you could give yourself an award, what would it be for?
- What are you thankful for today?
7. New Experiences
See the world! This doesn’t mean you have to go to exotic locations to fulfill this – start with the world right around you.
Check out your local farmer’s market, parts of your city you’ve never seen, or a nearby attraction you’ve never visited. Experiences are relationship glue, and you will have something to talk about for weeks to come.
8. Learn Something New Together
Try a new recipe. Plant a garden. Sample a new craft. Read about another culture and practice their customs.
Learning together means you’re growing as people together, and it’s a lot more fun with other people!
9. Read Out Loud
Grab a book you’d all be interested in, gather around, and listen and discuss together.
Short chapter books like “The Magic Treehouse” or “Boxcar Children” series are great for younger kids, while the older kids can take the lead in selecting things they may be interested in!
10. Play Together
Laughter and play go hand in hand. Wrestle in the floor. Play freeze tag. Run through the sprinklers.
Let loose and be a kid again, and experience the wonder of a child together – even if your kids are older. They haven’t lost the ability to play – and neither have you!
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” ~ Jane Howard
No matter what you choose, any time you spend investing in your family is well spent.
These simple times creating family connection strengthen your family bond.
Be present, be YOU, and choose to connect with those closest to you.
You’re creating the most important bonds of your life, teaching your children how to relate to the world around them, and making memories that will last a lifetime.
Over to You –
Are you craving for more connection with your family but are unsure where to start? What are your best tips for spending meaningful time together? What one actionable thing are you going to do this week? Share in the comments below.
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