To create and grow family connections during this time of uncertainty, it takes intentionality and creativity. Even then it can be challenging. Just because you are together as a family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, does not mean that you are having meaningful connections. The stress of this time can actually drive people apart. Finding a way today to take advantage of the time together is essential as well as learning how to maintain sanity as a person, in your marriage, and in your family.
Step One: Prioritize Personal Sanity
The first step to creating family connections is to personally stay sane. Do not forget to take care of yourself. If you do not practice good self-care, there will not be enough of you left to create meaningful connections with anyone.
For some, living in a house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, surrounded by your kids and spouse, the constant noise and movement and even the occasional outbreaks of familial chaos, begins to be overwhelming. It is OK and even essential to find space to just be you, even if it is for only 5 minutes.
For Leah, this means putting on a pair of headphones and listening to the sound of the ocean for a few minutes. For others, it can mean sitting down in your room, drinking a cup of tea, and listening to your own thoughts. Taking a walk is a wonderful alternative, which gives you both exercise and some time in nature to amplify the rejuvenating effects!
Whatever you need, find a way to care for yourself so that you have the energy you need to pursue meaningful family connections.
Step Two: Marriage Connections
If you and your spouse are working from home in the same house with your children, this may not be as romantic of a situation as one might imagine. It can truly be hard, even when you are together every day, to take the time to have a real conversation.
For one thing, the kids or pets are ALWAYS there! This can make having an adult conversation challenging. On top of that, sometimes we forget that just because we have seen each other a lot does not mean we have actually connected.
To accomplish connection during this time, you might have to be creative and take advantage of every moment available. While not ideal, “date night” could be shopping at the store together or making a new together. Driving to the grocery might end up being the time where mom and dad can have a heart to heart conversation.
Going on a walk together is a perfect way to get out of the house and have a good talk while enjoying nature, soaking in vitamin D and getting that heart rate up.
Never forget that this time will pass, and you will eventually be able to get babysitters and go on a romantic dinner date at your favorite restaurant. However, you do not have to wait until then before connecting by being creative and taking advantage of every opportunity presented.
Step Three: Family Connections
Alright, now that you have taken care of yourself and tended to your marriage,let’s talk about family connections and how you can grow those together.
1) Independent play
Now this one might seem counterintuitive, but it is actually an important time of every day. Mommy needs sanity, and kids need to have some independence and freedom to do what they love on their own. Without this time, even kids can feel overwhelmed and overstimulated.
Examples of independent play are:
- Screen time
- Personal time
- Bike riding
- Reading a book
- Play Dough, Kinetic Sand
- Sidewalk Chalk
- Playing in the Sprinklers
- Building a Fort
2) Interactive games
The next step is to play interactive games as a family. You have your standard games such as, board games, sports, Pictionary, Battleship, puzzles, the Wii and more. Playing these as a family can bring everyone together. Mommy Medicine contributor, Aimee Ghimire says her family of many girls can’t get enough of Telestrations, Skipbo and easy, colorful puzzles.
You also can take the games up a level and use some creativity to have some extra fun together. For example, you and your kids could set up an obstacle course in the yard with chairs, cardboard boxes, sheets strung on string, and other obstacles and have an epic Nerf gun war! I know this takes energy, but I promise the memories created will be unforgettable.
Speaking of creating memories, you can also download a movie making app on your phone or your kid’s phone and set the kids to work creating home movies. They can create choreographed fight scenes, they can choose musical scores, and they can even create artwork to put in the movie. There is no end to the creativity that can be used with home movie making, and the kids learn some technical skills through trial and error in the process.
Another quieter and simpler idea is to read a book aloud as a family. You can be the only one to read it out loud to the kids, or you can have the older ones take turns reading out loud to the family. You can even make up different voices for the characters in the book as you go along. As a collective experience, you can then discuss the book together either formally or just for fun as you go about your day.
3) Intentional one-on-one connection times
This next point is perhaps the most important: make sure to spend some intentional one-on-one time with each child. Especially if there is more than one child in your family, there are concerns that they will confide to you in private that they will not in a group setting.
Do any of you have a teen or pre-teen that likes to start talking with you late at night? You may be exhausted from a long day, but suddenly your daughter asks you for relationship advice or wants to talk about something she is worried about with school. This is such a special moment, but you are exhausted! This will happen no matter what, but providing a regular time that you are together with your child one-on-one gives a chance for these conversations at times where you can give them the energy and concentration they deserve.
When choosing a one-on-one connection time, involving a passive activity may be helpful, but it should be something that the child enjoys and values. For example, one child may want their mommy-time activity to be going on a walk with mom every day. Walks are very conducive to conversation, and this is a great plan. Others may prefer a slow bike-ride or sitting down and having a cup of tea together. An energetic boy might just want to wrestle! These moments are precious and will make a difference to your child.
4) Intentional family connection time
Lastly, in addition to having fun as a family, you can consider having a regular or as needed official family meeting. This can include devotions, if you are a religious family, and sitting together and singing songs can make precious memories. During these family meetings, it is important to give everyone a chance to express themselves and talk about anything that is bothering them and problem solve family issues.
It can also be a time to practice gratefulness as a family. Gratitude has strong physical and psychological benefits that scientists have actually been studied and proven! One idea that Leah gives us on how to practice gratitude is to get a piece of paper or 3×5 card and give one to each member of the family. On one side each person writes down what they are thankful for that week. After this, they can then turn the page over and write down what things have been hard that week. Having started with what you are thankful for, it can be surprising how short the list of difficulties end up compared to the thankful side. This helps put life into perspective, and it can be a platform to learn more about each other and what each person likes and finds challenging.
In the end, connections are about communicating, listening to each other, and making memories together. With some intentionality, it is possible to create and grow meaningful connections as a family in this season of staying at home more than usual and in whatever season comes next.
Mommy Medicine is a group of moms that love sharing tricks, tips and strategies with our fellow moms. Send us your mommy questions you would like to see as the subject of a blog. We would love to hear from you! Subscribe here to receive posts straight to your inbox!
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (5/27/2020)