We live in very busy times. Parents are exceedingly stretched and children feel as though they are being pulled in a hundred different directions each day. As a result, family members are finding it harder to remain connected and communicate with one another. Here are a few strategies towards greater family cohesion.
Rules: An important place to begin is to identify household rules that outline expected behaviors for all family members. Here are a couple of tips to get you started:
- Focus on specific desired behaviors as opposed to behaviors you do not want, as this quite often perpetuates more negativity. Instead of focusing on “NO yelling or swearing”, shift the focus to “speaking respectfully” which reinforces the behaviors you are looking for.
- Parents need to set a good example by modeling the desired behaviors, as our children are learning how to behave by first observing us. Parents who make excuses, such as, “Do as I say, not as I do”, are really undermining their credibility and effectiveness.
- Keep rules age-appropriate. My wife and I took an ECFE class this past year for our 3-year old twins and the teacher suggested beginning with (3) simple rules for our toddlers: We take care of ourselves; we take care of each other; and we take care of our things. This was very helpful and easy for our children to understand.
Routine: Developing a consistent routine gives children an underlying sense of security. It helps make things more predictable and offers children a feeling of normalcy in their lives. Creating a schedule can help make meal times, bedtimes, chores, and other activities a consistent part of daily life. Family meetings can also be used to promote greater communication and address important family issues as they arise.
Responsibilities: It is important for all family members to contribute to the household, which fosters a sense of identity, belonging, and contributing to something bigger than ourselves. Start by developing a list of responsibilities (or chores) and identify tasks that each family member can complete. Some tasks might be assigned to one member and others may include the entire family.
Recognition: Effective families take time to recognize each other. This practice not only fosters an attitude of gratitude, but also builds confidence, a sense of self-worth, and promotes the messages that “I matter” and make a difference in this world. Start by identifying helpful and positive behaviors, while attending more to the effort and progress that is made, rather than just focusing solely on the end results. This can have a self-reinforcing effect.
Recreation: Healthy families have fun and build positive memories together. Developing family rituals and meaningful traditions foster deeper connection and a sense of togetherness. Try establishing family game nights, movie night, making family meals, volunteering in the community, or doing special family projects together. Implementing “electronic-free” nights for all family members (including phones and other hand-held devices) might be challenging at first, but can eliminate an unnecessary barrier to closeness.
Parenting is not easy, we hope that these tips help ease the stress. When using the five R’s consistently parenting can be easier, and hopefully more enjoyable!