Today’s families are busier than ever before. Most children are raised in households where both parents work outside of the home, and the popularity of organised after school activities keeps many families running from the time that they wake in the morning until they are ready to be tucked in for the night.
While many kids enjoy participating in their classes and playgroups, the many commitments may mean that today’s children spend less time with extended family members than kids did a generation ago.
Parents often feel pressured to make sure that their kids are involved in at least some extra-curricular activities, but they may feel bad that their busy schedules prohibit them from keeping close ties with other family members.
In all likelihood, grandparents and other extended family are also quite busy, so the best way to be sure that they get together is to make plans in advance.
Gone are the days when grandparents could almost always be found at home, with plates of fresh-baked cookies ready for visiting grandchildren.
Today’s grandparents may still be in the workforce themselves and if not, are likely to be involved in any number of social and community organisations.
Family ties are important, though, so all family members should strive to make arrangements for regular get-togethers.
It might be hard to convince kids that they will enjoy visiting family members as much as they would like playing with their friends, especially if family visits consist of sitting around the kitchen table or watching television.
If, however, families schedule fun outings and other kid-friendly activities at least part of the time, children will learn that their family members can be fun to hang around with.
That’s not to say that every family get-together needs to be exciting, just that kids shouldn’t view family time as merely an obligation. If they live near one another, it’s great for cousins to get together regularly in order to build strong family bonds.
Grandparents and other adult family members may enjoy attending sporting events, dance recitals, or other events that youngsters are involved with. Kids feel great when they have large cheering sections!
Most adults would say that they love the members of their extended families, even if they don’t have the time to see them on a regular basis.
While their lives may have gotten busier as they grew up, they still feel close because of the bonds they formed as children. In order for their own kids to grow up with these same strong family connections, parents need to encourage participation in family events, making it a priority for family members to see each other on a regular basis.
If distance makes it difficult for family members to get together frequently, kids can call and email between visits to keep the lines of communication open.
Many happy families have a number of traditions that keep them bonded. In addition to getting together for major holidays, family members can establish other regular events so that over time, all members can look forward to these days, knowing that they will gather with others who love them.
Some ideas for family gatherings include:
- Welcome to Summer Weekend: Family members gather together at a pre-determined destination each year on the first weekend of the summer.
- Holiday Shopping Day: Families meet for breakfast and then spend the day shopping for holiday gifts.
- Cookie Exchange: Families each bake a number of batches of one type of cookie, packaging them into tins of a few dozen each. Then on a designated day, everyone gathers and exchanges cookies so that each family now has a nice assortment of homemade treats.
- Create a Craft Day: Parents get their children together once a month (or as often as desired) and help the kids to create take-home craft projects. Painted tee-shirts, garden stepping stones, or decorated picture frames all make great craft projects for kids.
- Pajama Parties: Adult family members take turns hosting sleep-over parties for kids, allowing the children to have fun together while parents get to go out for an evening of no-kids-allowed fun.
- Pot Luck Dinners: Families gather at one household (taking turns hosting makes it easier on everyone) for an evening meal, with each guest bringing a dish to share.
When asked, most people would rank family as one of their top priorities, yet many are not actively involved with family members in their everyday lives.
This contradiction doesn’t indicate a lack of caring, simply a misalignment of priorities.
Once work and school obligations are met, the remainder of time is discretionary. By allocating at least some of that time for family members, parents send their children the message that family matters, which of course, it does.