how to be closer as a family

We all want to be one of “those” families. You know, the ones who play board games every Saturday afternoon after cheering each other on at soccer.  The ones with all the kids too busy laughing and chatting during dinner to even thing about playing on their phones. The ones posting constant streams of family selfies a’top recently-climbed mountains with the hashtag #OurFamilyRocks. Whether you have a brood of one, or a handful of kiddos, it seems we’re always lacking quality “together” time, and we rarely have enough energy to as present, and engaged as we want to be. It’s an undeniable struggle. But after decades of motherhood, I’ve developed some simple ideas that can help any family become closer, with a little  perseverance.

Family Closeness Tip #1: Find A Shared Activity

In my opinion, nothing bonds us with our kids better than good ole quality time. Kids crave our time and attention…two things there never seems enough of. Whether you have a toddler or a 14-year-old, there are activities you can do together, to make the best of your precious quality time.

It could be anything. Bake together. Learn to geocach. Start a little garden. Go jogging together. Here are some great ideas…100 activities to do with your kids.”

 

Family Closeness Tip #2: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

I remember being so disappointed/worried to learn my first baby was a boy. A boy?! What the heck am I gonna do with a boy? I came from a family of three sisters, and naturally hoped to continue the legacy of pink, where I’d instinctively know how to dress, entertain and interact with my little princess. Then I had another boy. And another.  And so, as fate would have it, I’ve since mastered the art of building Legos, hunting dinosaurs, shooting Nerf guns, playing nearly every version of sport in the backyard, and even learning to play Halo on the X Box. Alright the last one was a total disaster (you can only take hearing “MOM you’re shooting YOURSELF!” so many times) but it’s the effort that counts.

The point is, sometimes it takes an enormous amount of creativity and effort to find ways to bond and interact with our kids, especially if they have different personality types, or interests. It’s not easy, but I believe these kinds of little sacrifices ultimately form the strongest families.

 

Family Closeness Tip #3: Make It A Group Thang

Sometimes as the kids grow older and more independent they can be less enthused about  hanging out (sniff!), watching family movies, playing board games, etc. with the family. It’s normal for them to ditch us for their friends and their iPads for reasonable periods of time, but studies show it’s still important even for older teens to remain connected to the family. I’ve found by incorporating my sister’s family (with similarly aged cousins) into family activities, the kids are more apt to join. Consider inviting family or friends over for once-a-month game nights, or potluck Sunday dinners, or monthly bowling outings, etc.. If you don’t have family, consider inviting your kids’ friends along/over for these times, to up the excitement level. My kids will even venture on family hikes when their friends join. #SmallMiracles.

 

Family Closeness Tip #4: Limit The Devices

We’ve all been assaulted by eye rolls when instructing our teens to put down the phone during dinner. It’s not fun. But it’s necessary. The excessive use of phones and devices can totally ruin family time, as we all know. It can be gut wrenchingly annoying to constantly nag our kids to put the phone down during a family activity, so establishing clear technology parameters-despite initial resistance-serves us for the long run.  Our family doesn’t allow phones at the table, during movies/shows, at church and phones are all left out in the hallway at bedtime. The same goes for our own phone use when the kids are around.  Busy schedules, blended family nuances and competing distractions make quality time difficult enough without tempting Instagram alerts popping up every five minutes during Monopoly.

 

Family Closeness Tip #5: Don’t Forget One-On-One Time

If you have more than one kiddo, it can be super difficult finding times and activities to bond with the kids individually. Lots of families don’t have one on one times at all, which might not be the end of the world, but I do think kids love the attention. We have four kids from aged 7-14 (and one in college who I still force on ‘mom dates!’) so taking the kids on solo activities can be difficult. But these times can be simple, like weekly one-on-one basketball with your 12-year-old, or watching a show only you and you and your 15-year-old enjoy, or continuing your fiercely competitive chess game one once a week, with homemade nachos. Try to loosely schedule these times in your calendar so you’re not tempted to skip out, and before you know it, you’ll be in a routine.

 

Family Closeness Tip #6: Establish Family Traditions

We’ve been having Friday pizza night for at least 15 years now.  Not sure if it’s by calorically inconvenient obsession with pizza or my hatred of cooking, but to me, there is really nothing better than everyone sitting down to at at the end of our work/school weeks, ready to debate which movie we’ll be watch that night. Whether it’s taco Tuesdays, Saturday movie nights, going to brunch after church, grabbing ice cream after weekly soccer practice, these kinds of fun, reoccurring activities really do give everyone a sense of camaraderie and security.

Family Closeness Tip #7: Pray Together

If you’re a family of faith, this one is probably the most important and most effective way to increase family closeness. If you have kids older than ten-ish, your kids might get ‘cringy,’ and awkward after announcing the family is going to pray together once a week, but this is such a positive and meaningful experience and they’ll eventually adjust.  The cliché that ”a family that prays together stays together,” might sound corny, but it’s true. Try to incorporate “praise reports,” into this time, asking the kids what they’re grateful for, and what prayers have recently been answered. Taking prayer requests is a good way of learning what struggles and challenges your kids might be facing.
Read “How to pray together as a family” for more inspiration. 

Becoming a close-knit family is a long, ever-changing journey. Sometimes we face seasons that make it more challenging than others, but we’ll get there, when we prioritize our time and attention, and keep God at the center. xo

For more encouragement on motherhood, check out my post, How to be a Happier Mom.” 

 

jessicakastner

Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist, author and contributor to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huff Post, God TV, Beliefnet, Crosswalk and many more. When she's not burning dinner, daydreaming about the beach, she can be found on the trampoline with her copious amount of children, wishing she'd ordered the turbo shot.

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