My friend has this saying, “See it, own it, solve it.” At the time I heard him say this, I was struggling with my work partner. There were a lot of things about that situation that were out of my control, but not everything. There were things I could do to affect my situation, and it began with learning to see in a different light.
Can you see your strengths? Can you see your weaknesses? Can you be objective enough to see your own actions from another’s point of view? If the answer to some of those questions is no – take a breath. These are skills, things we have to practice.
Sometimes the best way to start is with a favorite book or film. Take a look at a character you like, ask why they do what they do – then take a look at the character who opposes them (that could be an ally or, more commonly, the antagonist). What is their point of view? What are their motivations? You may also find observing other people as they problem-solve helpful, as you can more clearly see both sides of an argument.
The more you practice the more it will become second nature. As I’ve practiced this skill I’ve gained a better understanding of myself, the ways I can help people, and also the ways I’ve hurt them.
Take responsibility for your own actions. If you said something in anger that you didn’t mean – own it. It will only hurt more to try and deny when you make mistakes. Additionally, being honest about your mistakes will help you make improvements for the future, rather than repeating the same hurtful actions again and again.
Lastly, “solve it”. Apologize – and don’t just say the words, but make a plan and take action. The trouble with just saying “sorry” is that – if there’s no corrective action to accompany it – nothing changes. Feelings may be soothed for a moment, but the pattern of behavior will repeat unless action is taken to change and grow.
Change doesn’t have to be earthshaking.
For example, I once asked my roommates to only put their dishes in the right-hand side of the sink so I could still do my dishes right after I was done cooking. It wasn’t a large thing, but it was something that really helped me stay on top of my own tasks.
On paper all of this looks easy. It’s not. Relationships are messy, and life gets in the way of simple things. The fact of the matter is, we will try, and we will make mistakes. The important thing is that we get up, that we don’t let failure rule our lives. We invite you today to begin the process of becoming accountable. Learn to see yourself more clearly, own the mistakes you have made, and take steps to grow through them.
Gratitude journaling is the process of recording thoughts, feelings, and experiences of gratitude. These records can be as structured or unstructured as the writer prefers. Some like to make intricately decorated planners with specific outlines for every day while others are content to jot down a few notes on an app. At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal. That is the idea of what a gratitude journal is, but why keep one?
The Impact of Gratitude
A recent study completed during the pandemic revealed that people who regularly expressed and consciously took note of gratitude were able to build more positive mindsets. One participant noted, “After exactly one week, things that I was grateful for began to pop up in my head. Waking up in the morning, washing my face and hair, eating food . . . I realized that I do not really have to think deeply. And so this became more fun, I had more to write about, and on some days, I had too much to write, and there was not enough (space)” (Ko, Kim, & Kim, 2021, pg. 6).
Gratitude journaling has also been applied in addiction recovery programs. It helps individuals trying to overcome addiction to see the good in their lives. It enables them to “express gratitude, plan activities, and set goals; and also to notice change over time, guide self-discovery, identify issues to work on, gain emotional relief, and acknowledge successes [. . .] For many, the journal would function as a mirror, providing perspective on past, present, and future self” (Krentzman et al., 2018).
In my own experience, journaling has helped me see things with greater clarity. My gratitude journal helped me find the good in some of the most difficult times of my life. Our invitation is to reflect on things that make a positive difference in our life, make a physical note of them (on an app, physical notebook, etc.), and observe how that experience changes mindsets. We know happiness is out there! As we make a note of it we will find greater light and joy and the frequency of positive experiences in our lives will literally increase as our frame of reference shifts toward observing, looking for, and recognizing the good that exists all around us.
Recently, I was talking to a friend and she told me, “It’s just really difficult to have hope for the future.” I wanted to disagree but… I couldn’t. Instead, I wonder. With the reality of a global pandemic, the devastation of the war in Ukraine, and the daily struggle to make ends meet — how do we cope? I don’t have the answers to that question, but I hope to provide some tools and resources to help you along the path.
Coping is defined as a way to adjust to life events in a way that allows you to maintain equilibrium and positivity (Stressors: Coping Skills and Strategies, 2020). Coping mechanisms, or the behaviors we perform to help us deal with stress, can be healthy or unhealthy.
Some examples of healthy coping mechanisms include talking to others, asking for support, physical activity, viewing a situation objectively or through a different lens, or taking a break maybe by reading a book, playing a game, taking a bath, or some other activity that will allow you to take your mind off the issue for a moment.
Unhealthy coping can be excessive drug or alcohol use (which can lead to addiction), blaming others for a situation, problem avoidance, complaining to inappropriate people, or denying that there is a problem.
Ask For Support
Reaching out for support can be as simple as talking to a friend about your situation, or asking for help in problem-solving. Most often, I find myself reaching out in order to check myself — telling a friend or family member about a given situation and then asking if my response is reasonable, or if there’s a better course of action I could take to improve the situation.
In a worst-case scenario, friends and family may be out of contact. There are mental health services to help support you as well. If you have the resources, talk to a therapist or a counselor. They are people who have chosen their careers in order to help those who need it. If your need is more urgent, contact the crisis (for any kind of mental or emotional health crisis) text line, or the suicide prevention hotline.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text “DESERVE” TO 741-741
Find a Different Perspective
It’s easy to get caught up in our own point of view. Say, for example, the main stress you’re facing is a work conflict with your boss. Asking someone else how they see the situation can help you have compassion for the other person and recognize where your own bias is.
Alternatively, say your main stress is about the pandemic, or war — something larger than yourself. At that point, it may be more helpful to look at things from a religious or spiritual point of view. For many, belief in a higher power is a great source of comfort, especially in situations where it feels like what help you can give isn’t enough.
In the never-ending bustle of life one of the most difficult things to do is take a break — not just physically, but also mentally, and emotionally. Stepping away from tasks is the easy part, the real difficulty comes in mentally and emotionally letting go of those problems to really take a break.
Breaks can look very different depending on the person. A break might be walking the dog, playing a video game, taking a nap, turning on a movie or TV show, having some time alone, meditating, coloring, or any number of other activities.
Some may protest, saying these are avoidance practices instead of a break. In all honesty, that’s not wrong. As in all things, there needs to be balance. If you have time pressing issues but you’re spending all day engaging in media, exercise, or sleep — it may be time to reevaluate.
Alternatively, if you find yourself in a position where you want to be able to accomplish things but you physically and mentally cannot then it is time to talk to a medical professional. Whether that’s a counselor or a doctor is up to you, but if your physical/mental/emotional state is interfering with your ability to accomplish normal life tasks? Then it is time to seek greater support.
One of the best ways to cope with stress is to engage in physical activity. That could be hitting the gym, going for a walk or a run, doing some at-home exercise, or cleaning. Anything that will get your blood pumping. In general, physical activity is a great way to focus your mind on the present. Exercising may also alert you to other physical needs you may have been neglecting, such as drinking water or eating a good meal.
Another way to engage in physical activity is to get involved in service. This is a great option for people who want to be more involved in their community, or who find they have a lot of free time on their hands and not a lot of ideas about what to do with it. Engaging in service is associated with lowered stress levels, increased satisfaction in life, lower depression, and even better physical health (Thoits, P. A., & Hewitt, L. N., 2001, pg. 118).
Times are hard, but there are things we can do to cope with that. Take some time this week — even if all you can get is a few minutes — and breathe. Know that you are not alone, we are all here working together, putting our “drops in the ocean” to help those we can (Bojaxhiu, M. T).
Thoits, P. A., & Hewitt, L. N. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 115–131.
Learning to Listen with Love
If I were to ask you what matters most to you, what would you say? Would it be your family or friends? Or perhaps something about your job? According to the Pew Research Center, that’s exactly how you’d respond (Silver, et. al., 2021). In fact, over a third of the people researched list family or children as their top indicator of giving meaning to their life. And yet… our actions don’t always match up with our words.
Although this video is exaggerated, it shows how frustrating it can be to talk to someone who really isn’t paying attention. Even though James tries to reassure his friend that he’s listening, his behavior—the non-verbal communication—is saying the exact opposite.
Listening with Love
So, how do we listen with love, even when we don’t want to? We can start by acknowledging this is a weakness we have, and want to improve. Unless we can accept this, why would we try to change in the first place? We can fortify this effort by physically and psychologically attending the conversations we have with others.
Physical attending is relatively easy! According to Dr. Gerald Egan (2013), you can effectively communicate an interest in what someone else is saying by remembering the acronym SOLER:
S:Sitting squarely says “I’m here with you, I’m available to you.” Turning your body away from another person while you talk to him or her can lessen your degree of contact with that person.
O: Adopt an open posture. Crossed arms and/or crossed legs can be a sign of lessened involvement with or availability to others.
L: It is possible to lean in towards [someone]. It says, “I’m with you, I’m interested in you and what you have to say.” Leaning back can suggest the opposite.
E: Maintain good eye contact. It’s another way of saying, “I’m interested, I’m with you.” Remember this is not the same as staring. You will need to look away every so often, in order not to stare, but monitor the amount you look away.
R: Be relaxed or natural. If you are fidgeting nervously it will distract the [other person].
Unfortunately, psychological attending is where most of us struggle. Given the conveniences of video calls, fast food, etc., it’s no surprise we try to mentally multitask too—even though research is showing we’re actually terrible at it (Bellur, et. al., 2015).
One way we can strengthen our mental stamina to pay attention is to practice several minutes of uninterrupted mindfulness each day. There are many secondary gains which come with mindfulness, and our ability to be mentally present is just one of them!
Finally, if you’re still feeling disinterested or distracted when listening to those you love, use minimal encouragers! Not only is this easy, it shows your engagement in the conversation. Some examples include, “oh really?”, “tell me more”, and “I see.” Essentially, any small verbal expression that confirms your attention.
Learning to listen with love can be challenging at first, but just remember that as you express love, you often receive it too. Others will start to notice your efforts and perhaps be inspired to do better themselves. We all have a need to be heard, and this is just one way you do that for someone else.
Bellur, S., Nowak, K. L., & Hull, K. S. (2015). Make it our time: In class multitaskers have lower academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior. vol. 53:63-70. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.06.027
Egan, G. (2013). The skilled helper: A problem-management and opportunity-development approach to helping (10th edition). Cengage Learning.
Growing up I always wanted the perfect family. When I think of the perfect family I think of being married with kids. I think of an old 1940s or 50s poster, the white picket fence family. Bob grilling hamburgers and hotdogs, Janet trimming the hedges, kids playing hide and seek in the backyard. I wanted the American Dream but I learned that with age comes wisdom, and with that wisdom, I can say there is no such thing as a white picket fence family.
As children, we learn what marriage should look like through the example our parents set. We learn how husband and wife treat each other, how they treat children, how they treat others. That example informs what is “normal” to each of us, but in reality, that family could be normal, terrible, average, or idyllic — all depending on who you talk to.
Maybe you are from an “ideal” family growing up. You want what your parents had, but you only saw your family through the eyes of a child. You might have never seen them in conflict, argue, or squabble. When in reality behind closed doors in the bedroom or in the car they are wondering if marriage is even worth it.
Maybe you are from a troubled family. Abuse and neglect are the norm. What you know is what you experienced. You try your best at building a healthy family, but there are moments when you fall short. You get frustrated in your marriage and attempt to steer clear of repeating the past. You may even see something of your parents in yourself.
Maybe you are from an average family. Your parents had their ups and downs, but they worked through it. You learned from them, and want to grow into something better. You may struggle in your marriage every now or maybe you just want to learn how to manage the family better than before.
Patterns We Learn
When it comes to marriages there are patterns that we learn or have learned. These patterns can help or hurt in marriage. The important thing is that we learn from our patterns and experiences so we know where we are doing well, and where there is room for improvement. But, it’s not easy to see these things in ourselves. That is where coaches, counselors, and confidants can help. They have the ability to see your “norms” assist in addressing any issues that may come up.
My family is definitely not a picket fence family. My parents are divorced and my father has been to jail numerous times. I have been afraid to get married. I have often asked myself, “What if I get divorced? What if I am just like my father? What if my kids turn into me? Am I good enough to be a husband and parent?”
A couple of years ago I was talking with my uncle and he helped me realize my father was concerned about the same things before he married my mother. What I have learned is that you are not your parents. Situations may be the same, but we can change the outcome. When it comes to being a perfect husband/wife there is no guidebook, but the tools offered at Foundation for Family Life work. Patterns can be found and changed. Break your cycle by talking with us today.
Learning to Love Resilience
As a student of Marriage and Families, I have come to really enjoy learning about resilience in family life. Family life can be stressful, uncomfortable, exhausting, and painful at times yet so much joy can be found in families! Family is where we experience life’s greatest joys and sorrows and through it all we also learn so much!
As a family develops through the stages of life, they reach milestones through which they gain new skills. From childhood to retirement and senior years, life can be so rewarding, yet sometimes there are experiences which, at first, seem unrewarding. Families experience heart wrenching grief, sadness, conflict, catastrophic stress (and related disorders), mental and physical health complications, or unexpected events like auto accidents, or a broken-down washer.
Stress, adversity, and trauma may leave us feeling angry, hurt, and confused – but we need to keep going. Think back to a time when you felt strong, intense emotions surrounding family life. Maybe it was the pile up of a lot of different little stresses, or maybe a particular event. Did these emotions interfere with your ability to behave in a productive way, or respond in a way you would have liked to respond? Mark Fraser in his book titled Risk and Resilience in Childhood: An Ecological Perspective suggests:
“Hardship, tragedy, or failure can be instructive and can serve as an impetus for personal and relational change and growth. Resilience is gained when family members survey their experience and attempt to draw lessons from it that can be valuable in guiding their future course. In accepting what has happened and any persisting scars, they try to incorporate what they have learned into efforts toward living better lives” (2004).
Conflict Promotes Change
How can we turn stress or conflict into learning opportunities to promote change, or positive growth? May I suggest some general guidelines. First, understand that our belief system and the belief systems of our family is at the core of resilience. Meaning-making occurs as we construct narratives to make sense of what is happening around us. For example, our perception of the reason someone acted the way they did may be completely different than what the truth really is. These personal and family beliefs guide expectation and actions.
Understand there may be errors or myths in your current beliefs surrounding stressors or crises. In times of great stress, it may be valuable to rely on a trusted friend or family member to help you decide where the errors in your belief system might be. Families are able to weather adversity if they have faith in one another and an abiding loyalty toward each other. When problems are viewed in the right context, perceived burdens disappear.
Look to the Future with Hope
We should avoid looking to the future with dread because we worry about what will happen to us and what can be done to improve the situation.
“Our expectations, both conscious and out of awareness, are validated or disconfirmed in our daily lives and transactions. Assumptions that we will succeed or fail may lead us to take actions that fulfill our prophecies” (Frazer, 2004).
Hope is what is needed to sustain a positive outlook in the face of hardship or overwhelming odds. Hope is a future oriented belief, no matter how hard it is, we can imagine possibilities of a better future. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment but we must never lose infinite hope.”
Frazer, M. (2004). Risk and Resilience in Childhood: An Ecological Perspective
Becoming a stepparent or welcoming a new stepparent into your own life can bring both challenges and benefits. It can be difficult to mesh family cultures, habits, and parenting styles, but there are also great benefits that can come from having a stepparent. These benefits include increased financial security, more love and attention at home, and hopefully a happier marriage.
It is important to mention that all families are different. All families look different and act different. Although stepfamilies are not always the best arrangement for some, it can be a great blessing to others. Here are some ways that children can benefit from having a stepparent:
Stepparents can add love and affection to a family, and some children enjoy having more adults to care for them and love them.1
Having two parents in the home has been shown to have many benefits for children and having two parents in the home again can be positive for them.
Finances have the potential to improve when joining families together. This can lower the financial stress within the family and provide more comfort for everyone.
Marrying again can also help parents become happier and feel more secure. Healthier relationships in the home can be beneficial for all family members.
Despite the potential benefits of having stepparents, there are still challenges and difficulties that come with family transitions. Many marriage and family resources suggest that parents and stepparents ought to ensure that the home is filled with love, respect, and lots of communication which can help with the transition.2 Likewise, turning to other educational resources can help individuals and families learn how to adapt and make new family dynamics work. One research study found that stepfamily educational classes helped children feel more engaged, loved, and were able to improve their relationship skills.3 Using the resources around us, like classes and other educational material, can strengthen those who are transitioning into a stepfamily, and bring hope and awareness during a unique time.
Being a caregiver for a family member can be a stressful and difficult transition. In order to ensure that patients’ needs are being met and the home care is in line with health professionals, “family caregivers need information and training”1. The Prepared Family Caregiver model (also known by the acronym COPE) is designed to give caregivers the information and trainings necessary to problem solve and manage stressors.
COPE stands for Creativity, Optimism, Planning, and Expert information.
“Creativity: In generating solutions and coping options to problems encountered.
Optimism: Essential for emotional regulation and maintaining a sense of competence.
Planning: Following an orderly approach to identifying and solving problems.
ExpertInformation: Essential for understanding aspects of the condition and care needs for the care recipient, as well as for understanding personal emotions and needs as a caregiver.”2
The model is designed to help caregivers practice being creative when encountering something new and challenging, to be optimistic to help stay motivated and confident, to make plans, and to rely on the information, diagnoses, and treatment from healthcare professionals.
Research on the COPE model has found that it significantly helps caregivers carry the burden of caregiving and increases their quality of life. One study that specifically looked at family caregivers of women with breast cancer found that “a supportive educational program can improve physical, mental, spiritual, environmental domains and overall quality of life. It can also decrease the caring burden in the family caregivers”3. Another study found that patients who received COPE training with their significant other had “significantly less distress over the course of a year than those who received the training without their significant others.”2
The COPE “model is based on extensive research on problem-solving training and therapy. It empowers family members and patients for coping with illness and can help to moderate caregiver stress.”1 There are many benefits to getting the training and help necessary when becoming a family caregiver, to ensure that you are giving the patients the help they need and are getting the care you need as well.
Research on the Importance of Multigenerational, Extended, and Forged Family Bonds
Connections with family members can be a great source of support and identity for individuals. Research has found that multigenerational, extended, and forged family bonds are especially beneficially for the wellbeing of children. There are several studies and articles that point to the importance of these connections with family and community members. I will present the findings and suggestions from five such articles.
“To Change the Future, Children Need History” is an article written by Jenet Erickson, and she talks about the importance of knowing our family history and national history. Family history builds resilience in children, and research has found that “children who knew more about their family history had higher self-esteem, lower anxiety, lower incidence of behavior problems, a stronger sense of control over their lives and a view of their families as successful.”1 Knowing our heritage and larger family bonds can help us form a “intergenerational self” that brings confidence, support, and resilience.1 Knowing ones national history also opens our eyes to the sacrifices and work from those who came before us, and “what we must do to ensure that what we were given continues on for those who follow us.”1 Many valuable things come from knowing our personal and national history.
“Grandparents Contribute to Children’s Wellbeing” presents the research findings of Professor Ann Buchanan at the University of Oxford on the effect that grandparents have on children’s wellbeing. They found that “a high level of grandparental involvement increases the well-being of children” by lowering the amount of “emotional and behavioral problems.”2 This research suggests that involved grandparents provide nurturing, love, activities, and mentoring that benefit and strengthen children, especially in divorced and separated families. Grandparents can strongly impact their grandchildren’s lives.
“How Extended Family Builds Resiliency” by Tori Black talks about the negative impact of our individualistic society on families and close connections with others. Many children no longer have the protection and support from extended families. Extended families can provide great power however, and family members can often be “the cushion that softens the blow of trails that are part and parcel of life.”3 Even if we live far away from extended families, which is more and more common today, “forged families” can also provide this support and cushioning. Forged families can be made from neighbors, community friends, and especially fellow church members. “Without strong, interconnected kinship ties – both biological and forged – individuals and families crumble under the pressure of modern stresses which impacts the health and strength of communities and nations.”3 As we work to make supportive connections with extended and forged family members, we can create lasting connections that bless ourselves and our families.
“Children Benefit if They Know About Their Relatives, Study Finds” presents the research findings of Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke on the impact of knowing family stories. They found that “Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world”4 They studied 66 middle-class teens and asked them several questions about their family history, like if they knew where their parents met. The teenagers “who knew more stories about their extended family showed “higher levels of emotional well-being, and… identity achievement”.
Lastly, “BYU Study Says Children are Kinder When Grandparents are Involved” explains that research done at BYU found that the involvement of grandparents made children more kind and more likely to act in pro-social behavior. Grandparents have a positive and strong influence over their grandchildren because of their experience with parenting and investment in their grandchildren’s wellbeing.5
Multigenerational, extended, and forged family bonds do have an impact on children. They impact the emotional and physical wellbeing of children and provide them with support, love, and identity. If we work to strengthen these bonds, we will see benefits in our own lives and in our children’s lives.
The importance of having good friendships does not change, regardless of age. However, in order to benefit from a friendship, they need to be a “good” friend. What does it mean to be a “good” friend?
There are many qualities that make someone a good friend, but they all boil down to one word. Positive. It does not mean that they are always a positive person, but rather that they bring positive qualities, experiences, and feelings into your life. A good friend supports, respects, and builds you. They want the best for you, are honest and trustworthy, listen to and comfort you, and laugh and have fun with you. All of these things bring positive things into your life and make you feel cared about1.
When meeting new people and becoming friends with individuals, it is important to recognize how they treat you and how you feel around them. If they are disrespectful, do not listen to you, or belittle you, consider setting healthy boundaries for yourself. These can include physical, emotional, material, intellectual, and time boundaries2. Making sure the people you choose to spend your time with uplift and care about you is important to your wellbeing and setting needed boundaries can be very impactful.
Not only should we look for friends that have a positive impact in our lives, but we should also try to be that person for others. Again, not necessarily being a positive person, but trying to bring positive feelings, experiences, and qualities into another individual’s life. We can be a “good” friend to others by making time for them, being open and honest, and caring about them.
Having good friends and being a good friend to others is all about being a positive part of each other’s lives and enjoying being together.
“No one reaches out to you for compassion or empathy so you can teach them how to behave better. They reach out to us because they believe in our capacity to know our darkness well enough to sit in the dark with them.” Brené Brown
“A friend is a priceless possession because a true friend is one who is willing to take us the way we are but is able to leave us better than he found us. We are poor when we lose friends because generally they are willing to reprove, admonish, love, encourage, and guide for our best good. A friend lifts the heavy heart, says the encouraging word, and assists in supplying our daily needs. As friends we will make ourselves available without delay to those who need us.” Marvin J. Ashton
Raising children alone can bring unexpected and unique challenges. David S. Baxter, an area leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said “Whatever your circumstances or the reasons for them, how wonderful you are. Day to day you face the struggles of life, doing the work that was always meant for two but doing it largely alone…You run your household, watch over your family, sometimes struggle to make ends meet…You nurture your children. You cry and pray with them and for them. You want the very best for them but fret every night that your best may never be good enough.”1
He also mentions, “Although you often feel alone, in truth you are never totally on your own. As you move forward in patience and in faith, Providence will move with you; heaven will bestow its needful blessings.”1 You are not alone. There are many resources available that can provide strength and necessary help while facing these challenges.
Government assistance to help with food, income assistance, and resources for parents and children. (WIC, Child Nutrition programs, Childcare grants)
Books on Single Parenting may provide direction and ideas on how to transition to single parenthood. Some books may not be applicable to you and your situation, but it may be worth finding a book that you can relate to and find guidance from.
Family and friends can be a great source of strength. Likewise, meeting new people who are also single parents can help create supportive relationships with people who understand what you are experiencing and can provide strength and help to one another. (Single Mom and Single Dad online support groups, local support groups, Facebook groups, etc.)
Turing to the Savior can bring unmeasurable comfort and strength. He can help heal and give strength to do everything that is asked of single parents. He can brighten our lives, bless us with the things we need, and provide hope and happiness despite any present challenges. “All who suffer any kind of mortal infirmities should remember that our Savior experienced that kind of pain also, and that through His Atonement, He offers each of us the strength to bear it.”2
These are a few resources that can help single parents find peace, strength, and help. “Knowing that while you cannot change the past, you can shape the future. Along the way you will obtain compensatory blessings, even if they are not immediately apparent.”1
The parent-child relationship can sometimes feel paradoxical because these relationships can be amongst the most fulfilling and joyful, as well the most stressful and frustrating. Despite the ups and downs that parents experience with their children, two ways to help strengthen these relationships and make our connections stronger within our families are time and emotional connectedness.
Spending time with children is one of the best ways to strengthen your relationships with them. This may look differently for all parents due to schedules and cultures, however the more time spent with children, the stronger their relationships will become. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an apostle from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, teaches that “We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home.”1
Ideas for sharing more time together include:
Playing together. Take time to play outside, play games, or find a new activity you enjoy together.
Eating meals together. Not only does eating together give parents and children time to talk and share things about the day, but research has also found that eating meals as a family enhances the health and well-being of adolescents in the long run.2
Being available. Children may need your attention at inconvenient times, however trying to be available to them when they need it can strengthen relationships. Also giving children our full attention when we do have time to spend will make those moments more meaningful and impactful.
Traveling together. Research shows that travel can be a way to “utilize limited family time to help improve communication within a relationship, reduce the possibility of divorce, strengthen lifelong family bonds, and increase a sense of well-being in adults and children.” 3 Traveling does not need to be expensive or glamorous to create memories and stronger connections with children.
Reconnecting after being apart. Reconnecting and being present during transition times (leaving for school, coming home from school, going to bed, etc.) can give children time to talk and connect with you.
Coming together to discuss and learn about spiritual beliefs. Religious and spiritual beliefs can be a very strengthening power between parents and children, and it is important to teach your children your beliefs and morals. Sharing beliefs and rituals can strengthen family relationships.
Spending time with children is essential to strengthening connections between parents and children, but also trying to be emotionally connected and close during that time is important. Some ways to promote emotional connectedness include:
Listen and empathize. Let children share their thoughts and experiences and if they are struggling, show compassion and empathy.
Welcome emotions. Emotions are part of being human and as children are encouraged to share their emotions, it can help parent-child relationships become stronger and also help promote healthy emotional practices throughout the children’s lives. When children are not afraid to be open and honest, communication and love within the family can grow.4
Express love. No matter how old your children are, saying “I love you” helps create an environment of love and expressing emotions.
Cherish moments together. Talking, playing, and laughing with children can all create a happy and emotionally close environment.
Like all relationships, parent-child relationships take work and can sometimes bring unique challenges, but spending time together and becoming emotionally closer can strengthen these special and valuable relationships.