If you ever feel like you’re sharing a house with strangers, it’s time to prioritise your family.
On the news, on social media, even on our WhatsApp chats… everywhere we find estranged family members. It’s become so common that people don’t bat an eyelid when discussing it. Although family rifts are sometimes caused by real, shocking events, more often it’s simply a result of poor choices.
So just what can we do to form the kinds of tight bonds that see families hold together and protect, nurture and love each other forever? The answers are surprisingly simple.
Take structured time for family
According to Cape Town-based clinical psychologist Roz Veitch, an extremely common complaint from parents is about children “treating home like a hostel”. “Everyone, children included, is so busy that months can go by where people just don’t interact properly. This can lead to a feeling that you are living with strangers,” says Roz. The solution is to ensure that the family purposefully sets aside time to spend together. That means sitting down with calendars and making time in the schedule to create memories as a family.
Make your time together fun
Family time shouldn’t only revolve around chores or watching TV together, but rather activities that can build memories. “Shared family stories build unity. Nothing does this better than doing activities that are fun,” says Roz. “Ideally this should be out of the family routine. It could mean spending time in nature or going to a sporting event together. What’s important is that family time feel like something you are doing just to be together.”
“Kids also love seeing their parents being vulnerable. Because of this, activities that involve you all learning a new skill is a wonderful way to bond,” she says.
Take an interest in each other
The aim of family time is for each person to really get to know the others as individuals. Every family member is different and really close bonds are built by families who not only understand that, but appreciate it. Eating meals together is a simple way to sit down as a unit for a chat, a catch-up, and the chance to show an interest in one another’s lives. “Parents should share memories and talk to their kids about the things they like doing while asking about their children’s hobbies and memories in turn – you are figuring out who they are, watching them grow and sharing in their lives. They will notice,” promises Roz.
Talk about your feelings
The best way to really understand each other is for parents to speak about feelings with children and teach them, in turn, how to speak about their own feelings. “It’s important that you regularly check in with each other to find out how people are feeling, and how they are coping or managing things,” says Roz. “It’s so important to also appreciate each other. Taking the time to be grateful for one another, to notice the little things that the other members do for you, and to thank them, is wonderful for bringing a family together.”
Investing time in your family now will build a foundation for future togetherness. What’s key is to consistently spend time together, not once in a blue moon. When you look back at the shared meals and special memories, you will be so grateful.