It’s that time again, already! The school year is starting, and with that comes homework as well as a plethora of extracurricular activities with school and church. Busyness can create chasms of separation in families when it is unchecked. It takes intentionality and planning to keep relationships strong and growing. As your family’s schedule fills up and everyone starts going their separate ways, what can you do to stay connected? Below are five ideas to keep your family connected through the whirlwind of everyday life. Implement these suggestions or use them as a springboard to come up with your own ideas for developing stronger family ties.
- Read out loud together for ten minutes every night. Reading aloud creates a safe atmosphere that fosters deeper conversations, increases everyone’s knowledge, and helps bond you together as a family. Take turns choosing a book to read so that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy something they love.
- Eat together as a family as much as possible. You have heard this over and over, but it bears repeating. Families who eat together talk to each other more. Mealtime can be one of the most relaxing and connective parts of the evening. Use the time to find out what is really going on in your kids’ lives. Ask questions and listen, really listen, to their answers. You will grow to know your children even better than you do now.
- Take one or more of your kids with you when you run errands. There is always something to do—go to the grocery store or the bank, or take a meal to a sick friend. Invite your children to come along and help you. Give them a specific responsibility during the trip so they feel like they are contributing to the family. Take advantage of the time to ask them about their day and, once again, listen carefully to what they have to say.
- Set up game nights. Play board games, cards, hide-and-seek, or other games as a family. My grandkids love to play hide-and-seek in the house. They are still young, so the minute I say “ready or not,” they come running out of their hiding places, giggling, and jump on me. They are not playing the game “right,” and we don’t always play for a long time, but the time we do play together is precious and has already yielded huge relational dividends.
- Send notes in your kids’ backpacks or lunch bags. I used to put small notes for my daughter in her lunch. I would tell her I was praying for a test she had to take or that I was thinking about her and hoping she had a great day. I had no idea what those notes meant to her until many years later, when I was helping her pack for a move she was making with her husband and children. She was sorting through a box and pulled out all the notes I had written to her almost twenty years before. She kept those notes all through junior high, high school, college, and her marriage. What a blessing to me to learn that those notes were so important to her!
None of the things above are huge time investments, but they can have long-lasting positive effects on your family. Every family is different, so don’t feel constrained to the suggestions above. Think about what would work best for your family and start with one thing at a time. Your family will thank you for it, and you will love the relationships that grow out of your time together.
Linda Howard is the Acquisitions Director for Children and Youth titles at Tyndale House Publishers. In her free time, Linda loves reading and spending time with her four grandkids.