What Holds a Family Together?
Once, our children were talking with some of their friends about neat it is to have a family. Their list of favorite things included the following:
They liked having family times and vacations; they liked knowing that certain times of a day were special, such as meals and bedtime; they liked knowing they could say whatever they wanted and still be accepted. The fact that their parents listened and valued their opinions was also important.
Family unity is not created overnight - it takes time. Anytime you are building a relationship, you need time to be together and time to share. Statistics show that the average father spends thirty-seven seconds a day in focused attention per child. Needless to say, building a relationship takes more than thirty-seven seconds a day.
Some families plan two or three hours together a week, but it may be too structured and no one will want to be there. Or they may sit lifelessly in front of the TV, each in his own world. They are with each other, but they are not communicating. We need to share what is going on - our joys, our sadness, our goals.
We should not stop spending time with our family when our children become teens. They will certainly be very busy, but a family, like any relationship, needs continual care. It is not impossible to find time to be together but it does take special effort.
In our family, we would rearrange our own personal schedules so that we could have breakfast together. We also made sure we ate dinner together at least five nights a week. That was not easy, but it was worth the sacrifice.
The teens have to bend sometimes too. If they have a job or are involved in sports or music, it may not always be possible to eat together. That's okay. But if they habitually hang out with the gang instead of being home for dinner, that is a different story.
The home needs to be a pleasant place so that teens want to be there. Picking on each other, having a perfectionist attitude, being rigid with rules, or being cross with each other are behaviors that drive a teen away.
Families can work to set up their own traditions. For us, the Sunday meal was a special time to be together. Vacations and holidays were also special family times.
The family becomes a unit of cooperation by working together. When children are small, they watch how their parents react to each other and to the world. They notice how we pitched in to help them and how we let them know we need help. Those little experiences of pitching in and helping each other with a chore, even if it was someone else's job, make an impression and bind a family together.
We found vacation times helped to teach and reinforce cooperation. On our camping trips, everybody had a task to do. Everyone helped with cooking and cleanup so we'd have more time to go swimming or boating.
Build a history of sharing and you'll build a unified family.