By Hannah Goldstein, LMSW
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?
- Every conversation with your teenager just turns into a fight. You want to ask your kids to complete their chores, but they keep complaining about you nagging them and seem to be annoyed at your existence. You wish you could spend time together going on outings with your children like you did when they were little, but now they only seem to want to spend time with their friends.
- Ever since you and your wife divorced, you have been struggling to communicate with your young children. When you were married, you were not typically the “primary parent” and would play with your kids for only a few hours a week. Now that you have split custody, the thought of having an entire day alone with your children seems daunting. What do I do with them for an entire day? Will they think I am boring and never want to visit?
- You used to love having family dinners every night, but ever since your mother got a new job and started working later, everyone in your family just eats on their own. Everybody always seems too busy to talk and whenever you try to start a conversation with your siblings, they never seem interested in what you have to say. You have begun to feel lonely and disconnected from your family.
All these scenarios include individuals who are yearning for connection with their families. As children get older and circumstances change, your family life may begin to look different than what you are used to. It can be a challenge to find ways to connect in the wake of those changes.
These four tips can help rebuild that connection:
- Time Together
This could be outings on the weekend, a family dinner once a week, or a family movie night. To increase the likelihood of everyone participating, each family member can take a turn deciding what the activity will be each week. Spending quality time together can help build memories and positive experiences which can become the foundation to closer family relationships.
- Appreciation Notes
In a central location of the home, place a notepad next to a basket, bowl, or jar. Whenever someone in your family does something that helps make your day better or puts a smile on your face, write down your appreciation to that person on a slip of paper and fold it up. Find some time each week to meet as a family and read through the notes. Sharing gratitude can help build stronger connections within your family and can contribute to a more positive atmosphere in your home.
- Phone-free Hour
I won’t be the first person to tell you that many of us with phones spend too much of our time staring at our screens. Try instituting an hour a day that is strictly “phone-free time”. This hour is the chance for your family to give each other undivided attention. If you are comfortable with it, consider including an incentive for those who may be resistant to give up the phone for that hour. You may be surprised at what a difference one hour can make!
- Family Therapy
Yes, making time for family therapy can be a challenge! With all the doctor’s appointments, soccer practices, dance classes, and late nights at the office it can be hard to find time in the week to make it work. Engaging in family therapy does not mean your family is dysfunctional; it can be a worthwhile investment in your family by providing everyone with the tools to communicate in more effective and productive ways that lessen conflict and increase connection. Family therapy can be an invaluable resource for any family that wants to improve their communication and learn new ways of relating to one another.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I would recommend you use the list as springboard. Tweak it according to your needs and what would work best for you and your family! Families that take the time to be intentional about rebuilding connections with each other will be happier and healthier.
Hannah Goldstein, LMSW is a Clinical Outpatient Therapist at Jewish Community Services.
Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.