No family is perfect. That much we can accept is a universal truth. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot we can do to change and improve our family. We can be kinder to one another, we can have more fun together, we can help fulfill each other, we can do better for our part in the world. But you have to work to change your family. Here are a few changes that you might have to take the lead on making.
Appreciate the bright spots
Let’s start by saying that you should never think about changing absolutely everything about your family. There’s a good chance that some shared interests, rituals, or even ways that they help out you, each other, and the community already exist. If that’s the case, make sure you show that you appreciate that behavior. Praise it in your children, be thankful for it in your partner. Focus on those bright spots in the family life and show appreciation for them. Not only is it a way to show the family that you value them, but it’s also a bit of positive reinforcement that gets them on board to get more of the same, which can be a great facilitator for change.
Building family rituals
Bonds are best made by shared experiences and there’s a lot of opportunity to get them in the family. Some of these can become family rituals that are repeated every year or every other year. They might be silly and even a little mundane, like having a family video night or the occasional bowling trip with one another. They are also likely to evolve in time based on interests or what kind of availability the family has as they grow up. Accept those evolutions, but make sure that you always have a ritual or two to come back to. It can form the backbone of warm memories that last a lifetime for your children.
Finding fun together
A shared hobby can go a lot further than a ritual that the whole family can get involved in. If you have the time, consider finding the hobbies that you can share with individual children. If one of them is sporty, perhaps you can join a tennis or golfing club with them. If one of them is showing a creative streak, then getting into new crafts projects with them can give you the chance to collaboratively express yourselves. If you have a reader in the family, a book club of two can be hugely enriching for both of you. Hobbies are great connecting forces and encouraging shared hobbies between family members can bring everyone a lot tighter together.
Getting away from it all
One of the most exciting and positive ways to get the family to change is to give them a change of scenery. Sometimes, sticking to a familiar environment exclusively can be something of a catalyst to rising tensions, frustration, or boredom. Having somewhere you can get away to now and then can make a huge difference. Whether that’s taking a road trip, having a favorite camping spot, or looking at a new condo launch to find a vacation home. The change in environment can offer a change in perspective, and it also allows you to get away from many of the mundane challenges of home that can build up and really become an issue for some members of the family. More than anything, it provides another opportunity to build shared memories.
Making the world better
Perhaps you’re worried that your family isn’t contributing much. You might be worried that they’re not playing an active enough role in being better people, being responsible, and doing better for the world. When it comes to instilling such deep and important values, you have to lead by example and get them learning as soon as possible. Start making green changes to the home and start talking to them about how to be more environmentally ethical. It’s a great idea to show them exactly what you’re hoping to protect with them, as well. A trip to a national park every now and then and the chance to spot natural beauty on any family vacations abroad serve as a better example for younger minds than facts and figures.
The community is suffering, and that’s partly because families no longer have the close connections that they used to. However, good friends and the support of people outside the immediate family can be tremendously important to growing up with a healthy sense of connection to the world. To that end, it’s a good idea to find opportunities for you and the kids to get more involved in the community. It might mean joining a local organization doing volunteer work in the area. Perhaps it might involve setting up a book club or finding playdates for them. It’s becoming harder for parents to teach their children how to socialize, so finding those opportunities to make a big difference.
Having the big talks
Activities, opportunities, and shared experiences are all well and good. But they are no replacement for good communication. The ability to get your child to share (almost) everything with you and the ability to be able to talk to them maturely about important concepts such as money and values can seem like a rare treasure. But it’s not truly all that difficult to build up. You just have to make the time. Ten minutes of uninterrupted talk with each child, where they don’t have video games or homework as a distraction and you’re not trying to push any agenda, can be a huge help. Ask them about their day. Be a good listener. Show empathy if they’re talking about bad or sad feelings by offering a simple touch or a hug. Take time for what they want to communicate, so they know how it’s done when you have something you want to communicate.
The idea of changing the people you love, or even yourself, might sound scary to a lot of people and you shouldn’t try to force change. Rather, you should work to lead the way, inviting the family to join you. Get them excited and collaborative, rather than trying to pressure them.