New Year’s Resolutions can start any time, despite the name. Your family is your home base, and to improve your own life, you need that to be a firm foundation! Some ways to strengthen our families this year are recognizing and creating rituals and routines, improving support and communication, and take alone time to reflect on these things. Don’t let the importance of family get lost in the craze of reaching your 2015 goals – let it be the root.
- Rituals: This Is Who We AreFamily rituals are things your family does that display your identity and values. A great way to do this is family dinner. Mealtimes are a great and convenient way to strength your family – and they are empirically supported. Children who eat with their families are 20% less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex at an early age, get in fights, get suspended, and they are at lower risk for suicide. Eating with your family models healthy eating habits and gives time for the family to share about their lives. Some weekly rituals to consider would be volunteering together or attending a religious service. Other examples of rituals could be an annual camping trip, vacations, special holiday traditions, etc.
- Routines: How We Get Things Done
Many families have routines – getting ready for school, laundry, chores of all types. Having times like these together shows a family what they can accomplish as a team. It may be helpful to have a weekly family meeting discussing who shares what responsibility. This way, everyone feels like they have a task to complete and can feel like a contributing member of the family.
- Support: Emotional, Academic, and Financial
This may seem pretty standard for a family – but when we really look into the meaning of why we are supportive, it becomes more genuine and consistent. We support each other because we want our family members to know we care for them, in more ways than one. Emotional support is encouraging, being nonjudgmental toward, and caring for one another. When your child makes good grades, your spouse gets a raise, or someone simply does what they are told – remind them of your support and pride in them. Research shows us that higher achievement in college students comes from lifelong emotional and academic support from their families. Academic support means being readily available to help your school-age or collegiate child make decisions for the future, manage their time for homework, and help them recognize their true potential. Financial support is a way to show sacrifice to your children and spouse. Many times, it seems that children don’t recognize this strain on their parents, however research says that these financial sacrifices motivated children to do better in whatever school, sport, or activity that their family is supporting.
- Communication: The Way We ConnectMany times we forget just how much our words and actions may mean to one another. Life can get hectic and stressful when you have children in school, working parents, and everything else under the moon happening in your house. If you feel like you are missing so much of your children and spouse’s lives from working late, school, traveling, etc. a family journal can be a helpful tool. A family journal is something you pass around from member to member to write in during their day or week. This way, you are actively involved in their lives without having to be right there with them. When children are at college or spouses traveling, remember you can always shoot an encouraging email or text or call them on the phone. It’s nice to be involved when someone isn’t right there with you. When things get conflicted, as they will, remember to take deep breaths and listen to what your child or partner is saying. Understanding is key to a successful confrontation. There are many resources (even other posts on this blog!) to find a healthy method for handling conflict and improving communication techniques.
- Solitude: Take Time For Yourself
Your wellbeing is crucial to the strength of your family. If one member is taking too much on or feeling unloved, they may just need a day for themselves. Your way of reflecting and debriefing may be a quiet afternoon with a book, a weekend at a spa, or just a daily meditation without any stress from outside. Let yourself recoup, it will show in your presence with your family and your perception of yourself.
Witmer, D. (n.d.) Tactics Parents Use to Stay Involved With Their Teens. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://parentingteens.about.com/od/familylife/a/time_child.htm
Strengthening Family Relationships. (n.d.). Retrieved December 17, 2014, from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/1229-strengthening-family-relationships
To Break Away or Strengthen Ties to Home: A Complex Issue for African American College Students Attending a Predominantly White Institution. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2014, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10665680590907864#tabModule
“Routines and Rituals Strengthen Families.” Love Notes | AHMREI | Alabama Healthy Marriage & Relationship Education Initiative. Alabama Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Initiative, 2008. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.