Family Comes First

It takes time and energy to keep up relationships. Today, that's harder than ever. As a society we've embraced the "always on" mentality.

Work doesn't stop just because you went home. You're expected to respond to emails at all hours of the day and night, vacation or not. That's why they pay for that smart phone you're carrying.

All of this takes a toll on your family and often leads to strained relationships. Family members aren't getting the attention they want or need. You aren't getting it either.

It's important that you recognize this in your own life and start doing something about it. After all, jobs come and go. Family is for life.

Photo by: the great 8

10 Ideas to Get You Going

1. Turn off the TV.

It's easy to waste an entire evening catching up on TV shows. Inevitably some members of your family won't like the same shows you do and will disappear when those shows come on. Some occasional TV is not bad at all. However, if you're taking in three or four hours of TV each night you're missing out on a lot of family time.

Decide as a family what shows you want to keep up with and which ones you can let go of and spend that extra time doing something as a family.

2. Hold family meetings.

This is a great way to let everyone in your family have a voice. Discuss vacation plans, birthdays, the family budget, etc. Give each family member a turn to weigh in on all the topics being discussed.

To maximize effectiveness each family member, no matter how young, must be allowed to speak and their opinions must count. Make the little ones feel like their thoughts and opinions are important.

3. Eat at the dinner table.

This works best if you turn off the TV and spark up a conversation that includes everyone at the table. In many countries the family meal is the most important part of the day. Eat, laugh, and cry together over a meal. This is also a great time for a family meeting.

4. Cook together.

Cooking together is both time-saving and fun! Plan some meals around the cooking strengths of others. For instance, if Dad is a grill king and Mom can make killer mashed potatoes make a meal of it. The kids can even throw a fruit or vegetable salad together with some supervision. Including everyone is key.

5. Take a hike.

Physical activity in general is good for your health and that of your family. Hikes or bike rides are a great bonding experience, especially the challenging trails. Push the limits a hair and you just might find that you have to band together to get through it. Relying on each other will bring you together.

6. Surprise each other.

There's nothing that shows how much you care than doing something small for each other without being prompted and for no other reason than you can. Don't wait for birthdays or holidays to give a small gift or get them a card.

It's the little things in life that count. It's also the little things that show others how much you care. You don't have to spend a lot of money either. A well placed candy bar can speak volumes!

7. Leave notes for one another.

Hiding a note in your spouses wallet or in the medicine cabinet is a great way to show how much you care. Again, don't wait for special occasions. What makes these the most special is when there is no occasion at all.

Leave notes for your kids in their lunch boxes too. They'll appreciate your sentiments.

8. Do something new together.

Families get into routines just like people do. When this happens we take for granted the time we spend together. So break the routine and go do something new!

Get in the car and go see a small town you haven't been to yet. Or pick a park you've never been to and go explore. It doesn't need to be anything spectacular, just go explore the world around you. Be sure to sit down afterward and have everyone share their own thoughts on the experience.

9. Recognize each others achievements and contributions to the family.

Everyone loves being praised for chores well done or accomplishments at work or school. Make sure that every member of your family member is aptly praised for their achievements.

If Mom has worked really hard on the vegetable garden or Dad did a great job painting the bedroom recognize their efforts. They'll appreciate it more than you know.

10. One on One Time

As important as it is for the family to spend time together as a unit, it's also important that each member of your immediate family is getting one on one time with each of the other family members. If two family members have a strained relationship addressing that sooner than later will benefit everyone.

Take an afternoon and go to a park, coffee-house, or just run errands with one other family member. All the while talk about what's going on in their life, yours, and the family as a whole. Next time go with a different family member.

Start Where You Are

Likely it's not possible for you to embrace all ten of these ideas in the next week. Pick two or three to start with and build on it from there. Share this with your spouse and let them know what you're thinking.

Applying these ideas over time will reinforce your relationships and take them to new heights. Add your own ideas to the list too.