“Our family needs to connect better!” It is a thought whether voiced or not comes to the mind of many parents striving for a stronger family. What is meant exactly by wanting a better connection to each other anyways? As a family we see each other daily. We communicate schedules and pick up times and instruct in homework. We cheer our kids at their sporting events and help them with the science fair. We’re pretty good parents so we’ve obviously got a pretty good family.
And yet, there is still that longing for a deeper connection. To connect means to join together, link, bind or unite. Perhaps just being in the same room is not the equivalent of connecting as a family. Let us look a bit further into the family dynamic and see how we can make the connection a better one.
Quality questions to grow relationship with your children
One of the most common questions we ask our kids is “How was school?” Never ask them this question! This is a horrible question and elicits a one word response which most likely will be “fine.” Instead ask them a more detailed question such as:
- Anything funny happen today?
- What did you do at recess?
- What are you studying in (fill in subject here) lately?
- Who did you sit with at lunch? What did you talk about?
- Tell me something good that happened today?
- If you could vote one kid out of your class who would it be and why?
- Did you help anyone today?
Through questions like these you may get more insight into not only your child’s day and their friends they have surrounded themselves with but also who your child is as a person. Once you get them talking they might even remember something from their day that is worth sharing you might never have asked about.
I think one of the best places to connect is at the dinner table and at bedtime. Let’s start with the dinner table. In my ideal world the dinner table would be set complete with tablecloth and cloth napkins and we would happily pass the dishes and use please and thank you and carry on the most polite of conversations about our day. Well, maybe this applies to about .0001% of you, but the rest of us have a scene like this: Mom is yelling at child number 1 to get their homework off the table so we can use it for dinner which is in 2 minutes, child number 2 is coming in from outside covered in mud and is trying to wash up in the kitchen sink, the fire alarm just went off again because of the old oven that over steams and the dog just ate something mysterious from your son’s bedroom. Somehow in this very real chaos parents and children manage to sit down at the table with food they have put on their plates from the pots still on the stovetop while one parent hops back up to re-wash child number 2’s hands that were still dirty. Eventually everyone comes together around the table and those at the table have already started eating and one family member says…..did we pray? At these 3 words everything stops and we drop our forks and stop mid chew and grab hands and someone prays. This begins the dinner table time at my house. It isn’t always pretty how we arrive there, but it is always worth the time we spend there. Sometimes the dinner table time is 15 minutes because dad has to get to a meeting or there is a sports practice. Other times we have longer to sit and talk and share. Whatever our time frame we use that time to connect! We do it in a variety of ways:
- Tell everyone 1 thing about your day we use for ““survival mode we don’t have a lot of time tonight”
- Tell the family a high point and low point of your day (no lows required)
- Where did you see God today?
- 3 Truths and a Lie (We realize we might be teaching the art of lying, but it is still a favorite at our dinner table) Each person must tell 3 things about their day and one of them is not true and the other family members must guess which it is.
- Table question: It may be a funny one like “what kind of ice cream would you invent and what would you name it?” or it might be more serious like “why do you think Jesus called himself the Shepherd and us the sheep? It is always fun and a little scary to let the kids come up with a question for the table too.
My other favorite connecting time is bedtime. Whether they are 2 years old or 12 years old they need to be tucked in! It just comes as a standard expectation at our house and it will continue until they no longer live at my house. Something about being all snuggled down in your bed and comfortable lying next to a parent in the darkness just moments before bedtime makes our kids vulnerable and open and willing to share! You can’t just do a lean over kiss and say good night and leave. It won’t work! You must actually lie down beside them and just put an arm around them. Some nights it’s just the stillness of the moment and being together and showing that you love and care about them. Some nights in that stillness you may hear something like this “I was really scared about that math test today” or There’s a girl in my class who is really mean or “I miss our dog who died” Moments like these just don’t happen in the hurry scurry of the day and are less likely to happen over dinner time. Sometimes our children need the cover of darkness and the safety of their bed and their parent next to them holding them to let them say the very deepest things in the deepest parts of their hearts. This is connecting! We can comfort them and hold them and pray with them in those moments! We might not be able to make it all better but we can show them we are always there to support them through difficult days.
So what happens when you do one or more of the above several times a week? A cool thing we call “connecting” happens. Connection is not giving instruction on homework or telling where and when to pick someone up from practice. It is more than cheering and supporting our kids at their extra-curriculars. Connecting means uniting through shared hearts. Through silly or serious sharing we find out more about who we are as individuals and as a family. We love deeper and have a stronger unity when we know more about the thoughts, feelings and opinions of our family. By sharing and spending intentional time growing closer we create a unity in our family. A bond that is unbreakable.