Do you have any goals for your family?
I’m not talking about a written-down list of what you want to accomplish together, though I think that’s a great idea! The only list of that type we have at the moment is a general list in our heads of trips we’d like to take, places we’d like to visit as a family.
Let’s go deeper than that. How do you want your family members to feel when you’re all together? I know that I want each person to feel safe, loved, and accepted exactly as they are. Whether it’s a wacky sense of humor or a deep-seated fear of spiders, we all should feel comfortable being ourselves when we’re together.
I want us to enjoy spending time with each other, to create family memories, to have moments that we can all look back on with shared fondness. I love hearing our daughters talk about memories from their younger years, though that often turns into retelling stories about when they got in trouble for something!
I think we all want to build this sense of love and security into our families. I need to actively look for ways to cultivate that spirit, so I wrote out a list of ten ways that we can build strong family ties.
1. Pray together. Here’s a great foundation for the rest of the list! Our hearts are united as we pray for needs to be met, then rejoice together when prayer is answered. We all know when someone in the family is going through a difficult time, and it’s a comfort to know that the whole family is praying for you.
2. Share family meals. Do this as much as you can when your children are small, even though it will be hard at times and all kinds of messy. 🙂 Speaking from experience, it gets much harder when your kids are teenagers and have practices, games, and other activities in the evening. These days I really treasure the nights we’re all around the table at the same time! It’s fun to hear about the girls’ school day, and to just slow down and reconnect after a busy day.
3. Support each other’s interests. As much as possible, we all go to the girls’ piano recitals, basketball games, and school concerts. It’s fun to rehash the highlights together afterwards! It also helps us be able to encourage each other in our interests. My parents were wonderful examples of this when I was growing up.
4. Volunteer as a family. Whether at church or in the community, take advantage of every opportunity to serve others as a group. I like to have the girls help me when I work in children’s church, vacation Bible school, or the church nursery.
5. Read an exciting book aloud. It’s fun to experience the story together and discuss what might happen next. We might also listen to radio series like Adventures in Odyssey in the car when we’re on long trips.
6. Set family goals and work toward them together. You could choose long-term or short-term goals to strive for. Even manual labor can be fun, if you’re working together towards a goal, like cleaning out the garage so you can have a yard sale to make money for a family trip. You could also choose a fun project, like putting together a large puzzle. (Okay, so that’s fun for some people 😉
7. Have friendly competitions and include a prize for the winner. Each March, we all fill out NCAA basketball tournament brackets; the person who gets the most points chooses a restaurant for our next night out. Even though the girls and I aren’t that knowledgeable about which teams are the best, we still have fun competing.
8. Explore new places. While an actual vacation is nice, this could also just be a visit to the local zoo or a bike ride at a park you’ve never checked out. Once they’re old enough, involve your children in the planning of trips and activities when possible.
9. Respect each other by listening – and not interrupting – when someone else is talking. This is a valuable skill both inside and outside of our families! We need to listen to each other and really hear what the other person is saying instead of just forming our answer and sharing our opinion.
10. Institute family traditions. If you’ve read here long, you know this is one of my favorite ideas! Our next tradition on the calendar is in February. Each of our girls always get heart-shaped boxes of candy from their dad on Valentine’s Day. I’ve tried to create a certain tradition around every holiday.
As Gretchen Rubin says, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Let’s gather our families around us and build strong ties that will give us great companions as we walk through life, those who will celebrate our victories and walk with us through our struggles.
(And if you’re having a particularly hard day today, go read The Best Response to ‘The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short.‘ Because I do remember those days, and they can be really, really long.)
What are other ways we can strengthen ties within our families?