Enhancing Family Unity

Family and Kids

As moms, we have a tremendous opportunity to impact our family in significant ways if we are intentional in our actions. I am incredibly passionate about how significant our role truly is in the home and love it when I can encourage and inspire a mom I am working with to take their role up a notch.
In today’s busy, fast paced world it is easy to lose sight of what truly is important. I believe it takes a conscious effort to create a feeling of connectedness in our family and if we don’t do this everyone suffers.
You hear about all kinds of unfortunate circumstances that families find themselves and I often wonder if they could have been avoided. I feel pretty strongly that they could and I would love to share with you a few intentional steps that you could incorporate in order to create or keep connected as a family.
Slow Down – We are so use to running from one activity to the next usually going through the drive-thru to get some food and getting on to the next activity. I really wonder if this is what is wrong today? Everyone has different situations and I am not here to tell anyone how to manage their own family, but I can tell you, the families that I see make it work and I see enjoying each other are the ones who’s daily schedule is not dictating their lives. They have made a conscious choice to limited time away from home, set boundaries on their time and make family time at home together a priority.
When you take a few minutes to write out your priorities and then look at what is actually happening in your life you may have some adjusting to do. If you are living by your priorities things just seem to flow a little easier, if you are not, things tend to be more difficult and more stressful. I know for me, I need and enjoy spending evenings at home with all the kids around sitting in the kitchen and family room doing homework. This is true peace to me. Yep, I am a pretty simple gal and do enjoy the little things!
Eat together – When was the last time you ate together as a family? I mean not driving in the car or up at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, but at a real table with real conversation?
The research is there and still we wonder the value of eating meals together as a family. For example:
According to a (2005) Columbia University survey, teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and much less likely to have substance abuse problems.
A survey of 1,000 teens by the National Center Addiction and Drug Abuse at Columbia University (2008) found that nearly half of teens thought dinnertime was the best time to talk to their parents about something important. More than 80% of the teens in the same survey said they preferred having dinner with their families to eating alone.
The Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development, a joint project between Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and Clark University, found that the discussions that take place at the dinner table are important to children’s speech development. Lively discussions of current events or explanations make a bigger contribution to children’s vocabularies than just saying “Pass the peas.”
So, better grades and less likely to have substance abuse problems, greater opportunity to connect with your teen and better language development. WOW – I don’t know about you, but we all have to eat so why not make this a priority in order to reap these additional benefits?
If family meal time is missing from your daily or weekly schedule, start incorporating it in. Take the time to plan dinner, have it be something your family looks forward to, invite some interesting conversation topics (a great resource is Family Table Topics, our family loves this!) talk about your day, ask open ended questions, not the typical “how was your day” instead say, “tell me about your day” “what was your favorite part” “what was the worst part”, you will be amazed at what comes out of those simple questions. Talk about what is in the news depending on the age of your children, just get everyone talking.
If you need help getting a plan together for dinner, check out Emealz or Beyond Beans and Weenies – two great sites that help moms prepare and deliver dinner with less stress!
Share tasks – There is nothing more uniting than having a common goal among members working toward the same end. So, with the daily tasks involved with running a household there are many opportunities for everyone to participate in some form. Whatever age your children are – they can contribute. The sooner you involve them the better it is for everyone, most importantly them! I am a firm believer on sharing tasks and taking ownership in jobs. Where else are your children going to learn the value of cooperation, teamwork and sharing? We have a family meeting every 6 months and have a list of tasks that need accomplished and then everyone gets to start picking from the list what they would like to help with. It is the same concept as assigning chores, but when kids have a say in what they help with you would be amazed at the difference in attitude. No one likes to be told what to do, but when it comes across as ‘everyone doing their part’ it just sits a little better.
Play Together – Do you make it a habit to do fun stuff together as a family? Or do you find everyone going out on their own to do the things they enjoy? Why not build some activities in your week that will provide opportunity for you to laugh together as a family, create unique and treasured memories and knit heartstrings closer together? Remember, all work and no play is no fun for anyone!
When was the last time you sat around after school and made chocolate chip cookies with the kids while they did their homework? Or perhaps let one of your children cook a completely ridiculous dinner and you all just enjoyed it? (Backwards dinners are always fun – you know – dessert first then the main meal!) Why not start creating a list of fun things the family would like to do together and then leave it in a place everyone can see and just start crossing off some of those things by doing them! Let everyone make suggestions and then write them in the calendar, otherwise if you are like me, they won’t get done!
I cannot tell you how many times someone brings up a memory of something fun we did and we just start laughing all over again. My family just recently tie dyed t-shirts one afternoon and now when everyone wears theirs it creates an opportunity to talk about when they did that and how much fun it was to do that together. Believe me when I say, I am not a big fan of tie dye…..so sometimes you have to stretch yourself even doing some things you don’t like in order to benefit the greater cause!
I have more ideas, but do not want to overwhelm you! Stay tuned for another post on this, but in the meantime I would love to hear from you:
What ways does your family create unity and connectedness? Is it something that comes naturally or are you intentional about it? What are the benefits you have seen from making this a priority?

(photo source)