Many families face problems carving out time in their busy days for quality family time. The world is fast-paced and family time is limited by work, school, extracurricular activities, and the everyday tasks required to maintain a household.
But parents need to make time to nurture and strengthen family bonds. Children say that they rely on adults in their lives more than anyone else to help them make tough decisions and to provide good advice. It is through meaningful time spent with adults who care about them that strong bonds are created and children learn how to behave in society.
Strong family relationships help children learn to value family. Studies show that strong parent-child relationships can guide children toward school success and away from dangerous behaviors. Children who do not have a clear understanding of family standards are more likely to make unhealthy choices and be susceptible to negative peer influences.
Although family members may be busy with their own activities, there are many ways to create strong family bonds. One way is to prioritize having dinner together. Eating a meal together gives family members the opportunity to share the joys, concerns and challenges of their day. Turn off cellphones and the TV and focus on being fully present and available to each other. Not only does sharing meals strengthen family bonds, but studies show that children who eat regular meals with their families do better in school, are healthier, and are less likely to smoke, drink or get involved in drugs.
Many people spend considerable time each day in the family vehicle. Take advantage of these times when your children are a captive audience to engage them in meaningful conversation. Draw on topics in current events, popular TV shows, or even song lyrics to introduce topics that might otherwise seem hard to bring up. For example, referring to an episode of “The Middle” can be a good way to begin a discussion of a similar issue that your family is facing. Likewise, the behavior of a pop star who has been covered in the news can provide a starting point for a discussion of expectations for conduct in your family.
In order to make the most of the limited time that you have together, consider turning cellphones off at a specified time each evening. Some families designate an area like a countertop where cellphones, tablets and laptops are put each night and then retrieved in the morning. Avoid the distraction these items cause.
Try these other suggestions to strengthen relationships with your children. Include extended family members as possible. As you are engaging in shared activities, encourage children to talk and listen attentively to what they have to say.
• Have a family night out or game night
• Read together
• Watch TV together
• Attend school functions/recitals/games
• Schedule regular family meetings
• Supervise homework
• Do chores together
• Volunteer together
• Share hobbies
• Exercise together
• Vacation together
• Tell children you love them every day
Dawn Taylor is a community mobilizer for the Communities That Care Prevention Coalition. This weekly column, published on Wednesdays, is provided by the Communities That Care Prevention Coalition of Centre County serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola, and State College area school districts.