Raising a family is no easy task. Like any garden you’ll ever tend, it requires immeasurable amounts of time and effort to encourage and give everyone what they need in order to grow. Though each member of a family unit can have different interests, it doesn’t mean they can’t be respected, honored and eventually, brought together in harmony.
1. Establish family time.
Find a time that works for everyone. Utilize your time together to talk and learn more about what’s going on. You’d be surprised how many people tell me they try to have family time or eat dinner together, but it’s hard to find the time.
Excuses are always the same – scheduling conflicts, workloads, after school activities, homework, etc. Some people find an excuse for everything. Just like anything else in life, if you want something to happen, you’ll make time for it. This goes for family time too.
During your family time, ask detailed questions about each other. Keep your questions open ended to continue the conversation. For instance, “What was the best thing that happened today?” Asking specific questions provides insight into each other’s preferences, interests, and ideas for family activities.
2. Play together.
Every parent wants to facilitate growth in their family. Find activities and interests each person will enjoy and make a plan to do those activities together. It could be anything – bowling, dancing, park outings, museums, or just a simple trip to the library. The activity doesn’t need to cost money. The point is to bring everyone together to do something that fuels their souls. You might also take turns choosing activities.
One child might moan and groan, but it’s important for parents to remind children to appreciate, honor, and respect each other’s choices. By helping your children learn to tolerate and respect their sibling’s tastes, you’re preparing them to understand others in the larger world.
3. Communicate, listen, and really hear each other.
Listening seems simple, right? Throughout our days we’re constantly sharing our daily events on Facebook or reading other people’s social media posts. We also allow ourselves to be influenced by friends and extended family members. In the meantime, we often forget to listen to what our immediate family members are communicating. Listening takes patience, time and effort, but it’s time well-invested. When you listen to what your family is communicating and truly learn what’s happening in their lives, you have a better chance of understanding who they are, what they need from each other, and what they need and want in life.
4. Respect different choices.
You might not agree with all your children’s choices and interests, but it’s important to respect them – as long as those choices don’t include something legally or financially dangerous. Some kids choose a rival sports team. It makes them feel different, as though liking the opposition gives them something to debate. As long as any debate or communication is respectful, let each person be their authentic self.
Children often embrace technology and music different from their parents’ tastes. Wasn’t there a time when you felt the same way about your own parents? We aren’t meant to be carbon copies of our parents. Support your kid, or a spouse for that matter, when they root for a rival team or listen to music you don’t like. Encourage them in their interests and work together to respect and enjoy your time together.
By applying these four strategies to your family, you can enhance your family’s personal growth, regardless of your children’s ages. Make it a priority to spend time together.