By Bev and Phil Haas
It seems like our family is being pulled in so many different directions. My husband and I started talking about what we can do to bring our family closer together. What do you suggest?
One of the most effective ways to draw your family closer together is to make sure you have time together over time. A few years ago, most family experts were teaching that what’s important is quality time, not quantity time. More recent research shows that families need both.
Spending time together over time is about both quantity and quality. This answer is simple enough, but as we all know it can be quite challenging to put into practice. If your family is like most, you’re working full-time and managing a household, plus your kids have school, sports, friends, and possibly part-time jobs of their own to work around. Even though it can be challenging for everyone and you might have to get really creative, you’ll find that your family will be closer because of your efforts. As a bonus you may also find that more time together as a family is a great stress buster!
When juggling your family’s crowded schedule, it can often feel like you hardly have time to breathe, let alone spend more time together. As a result, being together and interacting as a family isn’t something that just happens. What will just happen is you’ll drift apart. If you want to spend quality time with your family on a regular basis, you’ll have to be intentional and put some muscle into making it happen.
Keep in mind that family time doesn’t have to be an entire night (for that matter, it doesn’t have to be at night). It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be long or boring either. Try a variety of ways to bring everyone together and see which works best for your family. Make sure to check with all family members in the decision-making so that everyone is included and interested. There will be times when someone can’t be part of the family fun, but that should be the exception. Remember there’s always next time.
Talk and Listen
Make sure your time together allows for talking and listening to one another. That may sound obvious, but in today’s world people can be with others yet not really be with them. Just look around at couples and families who are interacting with their cell phones and other electronic devices instead of each other. You might need to turn the gadgets off to have meaningful conversations.
According to Search Institute research, 70 percent of young people say they have family support, but only 30 percent felt they had positive family communication. Positive communication is a key to closeness, and to communicate you need time with one another.
As parents, we sometimes lose sight of the importance of fun and how crucial it is to the well-being of our family. We tend to focus on the things we think we “ought” to do instead of focusing on having fun. But the fun factor is fundamental to raising a happy family, and happy kids (and adults) tend to do better in everything. Seize the opportunity to stop taking yourself so seriously and get serious about having some fun.
Having fun as a family strengthens your relationships with your children and helps create positive memories. One of the ways our family had fun was by playing games. We made popcorn and milk shakes and then laughed and connected as a family while playing a game of choice.
The first step to increasing your family’s fun is to define what your family considers fun and plan accordingly. Don’t assume that your definition of fun matches your child’s. Ask what fun means to your kids and spend some time observing the things that they enjoy doing. What you learn can be a great jumping-off point for bringing fun to your family life.
OK, we hope you’re ready to pull out the family calendar to schedule more time for the family—time that is fun and that includes positive conversations. Don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t work for your family—try something new to shake things up. Every family has different needs and schedules; just keep trying new ideas and activities until you figure out what works best for your family.
Paul urges us in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 to “not grow weary in doing good” (English Standard Version). Spending time over time will do much good for your family!
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have two grandsons.