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Building strong family ties

Relationships play an important role in all our lives. It’s in our nature, human beings are sociable creatures and need companionship. We need family members to be there for us during difficult periods, for support, and also for social activities and outings. It’s not always easy to get along with members and many families actually have scuffles and hold grudges towards each other for years, even lifetimes. This is a very sad fact and life is just too short for us to continue this way. I know people who hardly keep in touch with their parents or brother/sister. They had their differences in the past and remain hostile towards each other years later. This is unacceptable. Be the bigger person and try your best to fix things between you and them. My dad knows a guy who spent his 70th birthday all alone, no family members to celebrate this special day with him. How sad is that? So why do some families cope well with problems while others fall apart? Why do some parents and their children get along, while others don’t. The key to a family’s happiness is the level of emotional closeness they share. Could your family be closer?

Some suggestions you can follow to build solid relationships with your family:

1. Make time to be together

In today’s “hustle and bustle” lifestyle it can be difficult to make time for family. However, this is extremely important because spending some time or even better, the day, will show your family members that you care for them and that you’re happy to be with them. Kids especially need attention from their parents. Vacations are excellent! This is a time when everyone is relaxed and in a good mood. Use this time to strengthen those ties.

2. Get to really know each other

You might be thinking “we already know one another?” Maybe not! You might know that your brother or sister likes pizza, know their favorite activities and what their other preferences are but do you know them emotionally? Do you know their thoughts and feelings or are you emotional strangers? How often do you sit down and talk about their hopes, ambitions, fears and goals? That kind of discussion helps family members understand one another and grow close. The only way to achieve this is to ask each other questions like: What makes you feel loved? What are your best/worst memories? What worries you? What do you believe in and why? Have these discussions when you both have enough time and privacy. Listen closely and DON’T judge or ridicule.

3. Share problems

Some parents try to shield their children from unpleasant realities. Children can end up feeling left out if they are old enough to understand what’s going on, but are not told the truth about family worries. Usually parents don’t tell their kids about money problems or a grandparent’s serious illness, but this can cause the kids to lose trust in you. They might also feel that things are much worse than they actually are. If children are not told the truth about a financial setback they might think that they will have no food to eat or will lose their home, when the simple reality may be that luxuries will have to eliminated.

4. Have dinner together

Even the busiest families can arrange to share a relaxed evening meal together at least once or twice a week. Mealtimes are often the only time that families can engage in stimulating conversations. The dinner table is a good “meter” that will tell you whether you and your family members are drawing closer or drifting apart. Do you always end up arguing at the dinner table or do you usually have good conversations and encourage one another? Your time around the dinner table can point out if there are any areas you need to work on.

5. Plan a challenging family project

A joint endeavour can be stimulating if you choose one that everyone enjoys. Maybe plant a vegetable garden, organize the photos in the family albums, maybe build a school project together etc. Make it fun!

6. Develop rituals or family traditions

Come up with some activity/tradition that you and your family follow regularly. It could be a family joke, an annual picnic or camp. Worshipping together is important as a ritual and also reinforces spiritual values. Once again, make it fun!

7. Play games/sport together

The game itself is less important than the opportunity it provides for the family to get together for a few hours of pure fun. Play board games as a family or play some sport outside. It’s a wonderful way to relax and get your mind off everything else. Outdoor activities can also get the heart rate going which is good for everyone’s health as well.

8. Share your work and school lives

When both parents work, children can feel left out. They might think that their parents don’t have time for them or that they don’t care about them. Talk to your kids about your work, tell them what you do and why you have to spend so many hours there. If possible, take your children to your work place so they can see where you are and what you do while you are away from home. Parents should show interest in the child’s school life as well. This tightens the family bond.

9. Don’t let distance come between you

Children grow-up and eventually move out of their parent’s home. When they are off at university or college, there are ways to maintain emotional ties. Thanks to modern technology there are numerous and innovative ways to keep in touch e.g. skype (video calling), instant messaging (whatsapp, Wechat, bbm) and email. Of course you can still use other traditional methods like postcards, written letters and telegrams. The point is to keep in touch and don’t drift apart.

In this hectic world, it is challenging for family members to make time for one another. The choice is yours. Make family time one of your priorities in life because there’s nothing nicer than being surrounded by a family who love and adore you!

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