These days, it seems like everyone in the family is busy with something. After school activities, extra hours at work or maybe just that next game of Candy Crush. And while we’re together, are any of us really embracing quality time anymore? When I noticed last year that my family was all in the same room physically, but on completely different planets mentally, I knew something had to give. So, we stepped up our game with a few key changes.
- Technology-free Dinner!
Often, families gather around the TV, plates in hand, with hardly a word passed between them the whole mealtime. As simple as it sounds, having your family sit around the table at dinnertime – sans phones – is an amazing way to connect after a long day. Your kids may be reluctant at first, but opening up by just talking about your day, sharing things with them, and taking a genuine interest in their lives, can go a long way.
- Asking Open-Ended Questions
Think about it. When you ask someone if they had a good day at work or school, you’re inviting one of two answers: yes or no. What if, instead, you asked them, “What happened at school today?” Asking questions in this open way invites their opinions, observations, and reactions to the day’s events. You’d be surprised how much open-ended questions improve all of your relationships, which brings me to my next point…
- Ask Three Key Questions Before Bed
For years, my family and I have asked each other the following three questions before bed:
- What went well for you today?
- What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
- What do you want to dream about tonight?
Asking these three questions each night has brought me closer to my family in ways I didn’t anticipate. Encouraging this exchange is not only a great way to reflect on the day, it also provides fantastic insight into what’s going on in someone’s life. Sometimes, the only good part of your kid’s day could be getting off the bus and coming home. And that’s okay. Checking in like this each night is an excellent exercise in gratitude that will give you a glance into what your teenager, husband, or elementary-schooler is thinking.
- Remember – You Were a Kid Once, Too!
As adults, it’s all too easy to forget that we once made the same impulsive choices, had the same overflow of feelings, and thought seemingly inane things were the end of the world. Take a step back. If your child or teen seems distraught, don’t roll your eyes at what they’re experiencing. Instead, recognize that – although something is no big deal to you – it is meaningful to them. Use those open-ended questions to help them navigate what they’re going through. While you’re remembering that you were a kid once, too…
- Share Stories with your Family
One of the best ways to remind your kids that you are, after all, a human being is to share honest stories of your childhood/teen years with them. Growing up, my mom always shared stories – embarrassing, painful, or hilarious – with me about her own life when she was my age. Hearing these stories made it easier for me to see her as a human being, and easier to trust her when it came time for me to seek advice about the big stuff. Letting your kids in on your own flaws makes it easier for them to share their own mistakes with you, too.
- Give Genuine Compliments
Acknowledging what your family does that brings joy to your life is one of the simplest things you can do to make the people you love happy. Has your husband been picking up his old guitar more recently? Is your daughter always telling jokes that crack you up? Let them know. Something as simple as telling your daughter she’s funny can go a long way. And who knows? Maybe telling your husband you enjoy hearing him play will inspire him to go to an open mic night and share what he loves doing with others.
- Learn About What Interests Each Other
An easy, but often-overlooked, way to promote love is through being interested in what interests your family. If your children have been hooked on a certain musician, ask them to send you some songs. Read an article about what they’re into, or watch TV shows that they’ve been watching. Too often, children’s and teens’ interests aren’t validated by their parents. Letting them know that what interests them is important to you can empower them and encourage them to share. Growing up, I was always encouraged to share music with my parents, and in return, I was receptive to their music. It was one of our best topics of conversation, and I am grateful for continuing this tradition with my own family today.
- Stay Open Minded
Being open to whatever new idea, political thought, or perspective your children bring to the table is the best way to foster communication, trust, and love. Listen to your children. You may be surprised, inspired, and moved by what they have to say.
- Say “I Love You”
The simplest, easiest way to promote love is just by saying it! Let your family know you love them. Tell them why. And – most importantly – say it when there’s nothing big going on. Not to end an argument, or to give reasoning for something. Tell your husband that as he makes pizza sauce. Tell your daughter that when she’s doing her homework. Those three words hold more power than any other in the English language.
Now, I’m curious about what you do to encourage your family to love each other. What ideas do you have for promoting family love? Let me know in the comments below!