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The series on family communication continues.  In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how important a strong parenting team is to building a peaceful family.  Part 2 moved beyond the parents and involved the whole family in creating a shared vision, while in Part 3 we dealt with routines, ritual, and structure.  In Part 4, you learned how to communicate and resolve conflict more effectively. 

Until now the focus has been on resolving some of the most common causes of family disharmony.  We have worked on building a foundation for peaceful home life.  But we aren’t going to stop there.  We want joyful homes.  We want families that truly LIKE spending time together.  How do we get that? We have to go beyond fixing problems.

Part 5: Increase Positive Family Interactions

One of the first things I do when I start working with a couple in marriage counseling is insist that they carve out some dedicated “alone” time.  It’s important to prioritize spending time enjoying the company of those closest to us.  It fosters positive emotional connection that buffers against the everyday stresses life brings.  The same principle can be applied to the whole family unit.  Start making family time a priority and you will notice a difference.

 Strong family bonds grow out of frequent shared experiences.  I’m not talking about an annual family vacation (though that is a great ritual).  I’m talking about the little things that your family enjoys together on a regular basis.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Brainstorm a “family bucket list.”  Include any activities that you want to do together.  This is a great activity to do at the beginning of each season – a summer bucket list might include a trip to the local water park, going camping together, or hosting a neighborhood cook-out.  Make sure to get input from all family members and try to include a variety of activities.   Here’s a great list if you need an idea jumpstarter.
  2. Have a Family Date Night. The time for this should be set in stone – every other Friday night, for example.  Keep a jar of ideas on hand to make this easy to plan (bowling, board game night, wii dance-off, etc).  Focus on fun, inexpensive activities that you otherwise might not make time for. Here’s a free printable card template to get you started.  It includes 10 of my favorite family night ideas and blank cards for you to fill in your own favorites as well.
  3. Work together.  Working toward a common goal is a great way to strengthen family bonds.  Start a project that builds a sense of shared accomplishment.  Plant a garden, build a tree house, volunteer at a food bank together. Pick something meaningful for your family and work together to make it happen.

Give it a try.  Establish a regular family date night.  Create a list of fun and meaningful things to do together.  Start a project.  Let me know how it goes!

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