by Dr. Gail Gross
Time spent together as a family is critical, especially if you have younger children who are still developing socially, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Focused family time can even help boost a child’s health and IQ.
So put down the cell phones and prepare to pick up some stronger family bonds. Here are some ways you can reconnect with the important people in your life while remaining disconnected from technological distractions.
1. Start the day with a morning ritual. Consider easing into the day together as a family by doing some sort of relaxing activity. For instance, you can download one of my audio meditations and meditate together for 20 minutes, and then enjoy a leisurely breakfast together. By starting the day together as a family with clarity and focus, you set the tone for a more positive day ahead. In fact, studies show that families who eat one meal together have children that perform better in school.
2. Visit a family friend or relative you haven’t seen in a while. Is there a family friend, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle that you only communicate with via Facebook and email, but they live less than an hour away? Use this day to reconnect in real life. Remember: children do what they see, and when they see you place importance on your relationship with others, they will likely place the same importance on their own friendships and relationships.
3. Cook a meal together. The kitchen is the heart of the home – where alchemy happens. Have each family member be in charge of choosing one part of the meal – maybe your son chooses his favorite side dish, your husband chooses his favorite main dish, you pick your fave dessert. Then you all help each other with each part of the meal. This way, you are each showing respect and enjoying something that another family member truly cherishes, and working together to create a complete meal that represents your family.
4. Learn together. Take this opportunity to take a class or go on a tour together as a family. You don’t have to go far or spend a lot of money. Most local tourist bureaus offer free tours of local attractions and historic places. Many local colleges offer low-cost half-day workshops and classes. Whether you decide to go on a tour of local haunted hot spots, or take a glass blowing class, it’s great for your children to see you learning alongside them.
5. De-clutter and update a common area in your house together. Has your family outgrown your family room, which still has toys stuffed into corners even though your “baby” is now 15? Is your garage overflowing with boxes of old clothing? Have each family member pitch in to help donate old, unused items to shelters and other charities, and then work together to refashion the space to fit your current family needs. The giving aspect feels good and by creating a “new” space together, you are automatically creating a place in your home where all family members will feel safe, comfortable, and welcome, since each person had a hand in shaping the space.
6. Donate time at a shelter with your family. There is nothing more intimate and rewarding as the common goal and enterprise of helping others, especially with your child’s home team: Mom and Dad. This not only teaches your children to appreciate what they have but also the wonderful and open hearted feeling of helping others who are less fortunate.
When you are unplugged, be sure to engage in meaningful conversations with your children – really listen to them and hear what they have to say. Without the distraction of cell phones or television, this is your chance to allow your children to speak their minds, ask you questions, and to interact in fully focused discussions. Engage in the empathic process.
Also, while you are working together to create a meal or visiting an old family friend, gently weave in questions to your children about school, friends, likes/dislikes, without any pressure and without your immediate feedback. When you take the time to step back and listen, you might be surprised to hear your child sharing more than you imagined. This gift of trusted information shared by your child, coupled with meaningful activities shared throughout the day, will hopefully lay a new foundation or solidify your already strong bond of family.
This time to reset and reconnect with your family is so important in today’s society. Then, when you plug back into technology, you’ll remember how important it is to unplug once in a while and focus on family.
Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., is a nationally recognized family and child development expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times and USA Today. ABC, CBS and KHOU, Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.”
Dr. Gross’ soon-to-be second book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, teaches parents how to enhance a child’s learning potential through various developmental stages. Two additional books are slated to follow, including The Only Way Out Is Through, a Jungian approach to navigating life’s transitions including grieving, and Defining Moments, which recounts the defining moments of celebrity guests as shared with Dr. Gross during interviews on PBS’ “Let’s Talk.” www.drgailgross.com