Have you ever thought about what you can do today to build a close family for tomorrow?
One of my core strengths is that I am future focused… Yes, like every strength it has its downside (or in coach speak its shadow side) and as a result I can struggle to live in the present moment ….but, today I’m going to focus on using it as my superpower, and give you a glimpse into how I think.
You see, right now my kids are 8 and 9 – they’re largely still homebound and reliant on us as their parents.
They still like us as people, they still like to talk to us, and they still like to do things with us. We are still a close family.
But, I think about tomorrow. Will this always be the case?
I think about the typical teenage years, and the many horror stories I’ve heard.
I worry about my kids drawing away from me/us. I worry about their ability to make good decisions, and to be strong in what they know is right. To fight the internal demons that are common at that age. It terrifies me to think about drug or alcohol use; how one bad decision can go so wrong
I know that the years where kids are more susceptible to these things are coming.
But, I’m not a worrier — I just want to be prepared. And, I want to take the right actions today to insulate our family where possible.
Building a Close Family
When you think about your family 5-years from now, what does your ideal ‘tomorrow ’ look like?
Let me share with you what I wrote down. I suspect that it may not be exactly the same as yours, but it might be close.
Although still controversial, some research suggests that in the years before high school a child’s personality is not yet fixed. In middle school and before, personality traits are much more malleable. Not only that, but until high school parents are still primary influencers.
So, what can you do NOW, as a parent, to establish traditions and foundations that will have an impact on your family of tomorrow?
Here are 5 things you can do today for close family connections tomorrow:
1. Dream big together, and support each other’s dreams
Last night, we watched the 1993 movie Rudy. It is the true story of a kid with a big dream. He didn’t do well at school (in fact, he found out he was dyslexic), he didn’t have money, he was small, and he had limited athletic ability. But he had a big heart and the big dream of going to Notre Dame and playing football with the best of the best. His family didn’t support him — they wanted him to be realistic — and it tore them apart for a time.
As parents, we want to protect our children from the pain of failure. You can read more about this in the article From Dream Killer to Dream Champion.
When we protect our kids, and try to help them ‘be realistic’ all we are really doing is shutting down the conversation. I know when someone becomes slightly negative about my dreams and goals I start to shut down.
Instead, encourage your kids to dream, to think big, to be curious about the possibilities. None of us knows what is actually going to be possible in the next few decades so let’s have some fun and have some engaging and inspiring family conversations.
At Empowered 4 Growth, we feel so strongly about this that we are building a mini-course to help parents dream big and nurture those close family connections. Find out more information, and join our waitlist here .
2. Weekly family meeting ritual
Leading and managing a family is no different than leading and managing a team in an organization — well, except with more hugs. And, everyone who has been part of a team knows that communication is the cornerstone of its health.
In my family, we have a meeting once per week. The kids love it, and it keeps us parents in check. Here’s what we do:
- Leadership: We rotate who chairs the meeting and the other roles as well. Everyone gets a chance to practice their leadership and be in control.
- Collaboration: Anyone can put an item on the agenda for discussion. For instance, this is when all rules and boundaries are discussed and decided on. This is when we talk about who is responsible for what around the house. The kids routinely advocate for their own rights and wishes, as they should.
- Appreciation: On the agenda is gratitude and appreciation for each other. Each person takes a minute to recognize one thing that they’re grateful for, appreciate, or are proud of in every other person in the family. It wasn’t until we started doing this that I realized how much we weren’t doing this for each other!
- Fun: Also on the agenda is an element of fun, although it is at the discretion of the person who is organizing the meeting that week. It might be a fun snack, it might be a game, or it might be planning a fun family activity to take place sometime in the next week. (See the next tip about adventures!)
3. Family adventures
Your adventures can be big or small, but make room for them in your life and family. It’s no secret that I’m a big believer in experiential education and adventuring fits the bill for this, but adventures also provide bonding experiences. Adventures force us into the present moment — we let go of the shell that surrounds us and we open up to each other.
The type of adventure may depend on your budget and they can be grand vacations to explore far off destinations, or they can be small day trips like a day-long bike ride to explore a new area, or a hike that goes off the beaten path. Try to take into account everyone’s wishes — and consider rotating who plans the next adventure if your kids are old enough.
Recently, our kids planned an adventure: it was family Minecraft time. Yes, video games! It was not my idea of adventure, but it was theirs, and it was important to them. We got a peek inside what they are passionate about… but, please, please, don’t make me do it again! 😉
Families that adventure together, stay together.
And, as an added bonus, adventuring stimulates the growth of new brain cells. Parents and kids can benefit from a smarter, sharper, and healthier brain as a result! According to Dr. Tara Swart, a psychologist and neuroscientist, in her book The Source: novelty is one of the 3 proven ways (along with exercise and emotional stimulation) that we make changes to our brain, and stimulate the growth of new neurons.
4. One-on-one time
Spending time together as a family is great, but individual bonds are important too when you are building a close family. Think of it as a spider web: all the individual links need to be strong for the overall web to be sturdy .
A book that has had a significant impact on me is The Family Board Meeting by Jim Sheils. I first heard Jim speak on this podcast in 2015 and I still have it saved on my phone. The book is a fast and enlightening read that has had a profound impact on my parenting.
His premise is simple – we have 18 summers with our children; enjoy them to the fullest. When put in that perspective, the time with our children seems so short and fleeting.
The use of “Board” is actually a reference to surfing, rather than a stuffy boardroom at work. For one day each quarter, you dedicate one-on-one time to spend with your child. You set aside a day, or an afternoon for just the two of you. Your child ideally chooses the activity which you go and do together. And, then you share a meal. There’s also a no technology rule.
You’d be amazed at the fun that can be had, and to what depth the conversation and connection can reach. In my board meetings we’ve gone to theme parks, trampoline parks, indoor rock climbing, and strawberry picking, just to name a few. Once in a while we’ll do something that extends beyond the day, and into a longer trip.
It has helped me to get to know my children as individuals. To see their strengths, their challenges and their uniqueness. And, it’s always a good sign when I hear them ask when the next one is coming up!
5. Daily conversation builds a close family
Weekly and quarterly rituals are important for depth, but there’s no substitute for ongoing daily connection and conversations. Finding a few minutes each day to connect as a family or as individuals is critical. What’s possible is going to be different for every family. You may try to come together at night to sit around the family dinner table, or maybe breakfast is more doable, or perhaps it happens at bedtime.
Think about it and find a time that works for you to just sit and be present with each other and to see what comes up. Practice listening intently, staying on subject, and being curious when your kids start talking.
If you need some help getting started we’ve created a free guide to family communication and connection, which includes a fun family game. Find Your Family Game Plan for Communication and Connection here. It’s guaranteed to deliver fun, engaging and memorable conversations on the daily!
These 5 tips are things that we do in my family. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we get sidetracked, but we keep coming back to these 5 core practices.
They’re my assurance and my insulation against the rougher times ahead, but they’re also fun and I’m happy to carry these traditions forward for years to come!
I hope you find value in them and that you can implement one or two in your own household .
I would love it if you could tell me in the comments:
- What’s 1 tradition you already do in your family to stay connected?
- And, what’s 1 thing you’re going to try from this article?
P.S. There is an important booster to each of these 5 tips, that can make or break your success. Find out what it is here.
P.P.S. Our new FREE guide is available to download: Your Family Game Plan for Communication and Connection to transform boring one-word answers to inspired family conversation.