7 Ways to bring the family together
The reason why I needed to write about this very important topic is because lately I have been asking myself a question: How can we make the world a better and safer place? A place where we can flourish together as a society respecting other people’s views and opinions?
Why is family time so extremely important for our future as much as for the future of the world? Maybe because I see it in my children that times flies, they grow faster than what my heart can handle. I see sweet and tender little people with great minds and ideas and because the only thing that we can do for our children that will stay with them forever are the memories and the traditions that we, as adults, create and forge in them. Family traditions provide families with a vital sense of identity and belonging. And why this is so important is because it doesn’t affect just your children, just your family… It has an impact with your neighbors, with society, and with the world.
When I talk about family traditions, I refer to any family situation, including single parents, caregivers, grandparents taking care of grandchildren, and any family combination in today society.
2020 changed our lives forever, we had to stay home and spend more time with the family.. so why is it that we just can’t find enough quality time to share with the family?
My two magic words are: Simplicity and Consistency. You will hear this words quite a few times as you read this blog.
Dinner time, is family time: “Respect starts at home” (I can still hear my mom saying that when we were young), and it also starts with the example that we set for our children. One of the family habits that I wanted to create, even before I had children, was to have a strong family union and values that children will respect and honor enough that it will set a standard and a reference for their own lives. I had this ‘dream’ of having a united family and one of the places where I wanted to solidify that union was at the dinner table. Regardless of our busy schedules, dinner time is a time where we come together to eat, to share and to look and communicate with each other.
This a time where we all collaborate to make this moment special. Get the kids involved when setting the table, using nice placemats, napkins and tableware for every day use. You can try to put flowers at the table, or a candle, or something simple as a center piece (it could be a project or something they made at school). This is a time to make eye contact and to be present in the moment, therefore; phones, TV and computers are put away and turned off, so there are no distractions or interruptions. Allow this special time to look at each other in the eyes, listen and talk about what each family member did during the day. Think of this as a special time for bonding and as a parent, is a time to deeply connect with the children allowing them to open up about their friends, what they did during the day, or what they want to do. It is amazing what can come out from those adorable little minds. Pay attention to what they say and listen.
Remember my two magic words: Simplicity and Consistency.
Set a simple tradition with love: Kissing and hugging each other in the morning and before going to bed (and every time you get a chance). Affection is extremely important for children and for parents to show affection to each other. Affection and love create a secure environment for children where they feel safe and protected. It helps our brain produce and use oxytocin, causing a child to feel more positive emotions. Remember, they are little for a little while, therefore; creating a safe environment at home is key for children to grow emotionally happier and less anxious. You can develop a routine by saying a few words like my kids say… “Un beso y un abrazo” (“A kiss and a hug”) I used to say those words at first when they were babies, now they are the ones asking for it.
Table manners and elegance at the table: It is never too early (and never too late either) to start teaching (and learning) good etiquette. Children learn and copy from what they see from parents every day. The earlier you teach about good manners to your children, the easier for them to adopt behaviors. Good manners is as important as learning the correct technique from the beginning. As a professional dancer and teacher, I always remind my students the importance on how to learn good technique from day one, because then the growth can be exponential as opposed to correcting bad habits. Just like learning the correct technique, good table manners are like the foundation in a building. The stronger the foundation, the more floors your can build, climb, and the higher you can go. Self-respect and respect to everyone sitting at the table start with good manners, and in this case, table manners.
Quality family time: Do activities together as a family. Create family memories: go to the park, to the beach or watch a movie, but go together. Specially; on weekends where it might be easier to accommodate everyone’s schedules. Think of simple activities, like movie night at home, card games, or building Legos, the ONLY thing that really matter here is that parents stay present. No phones or computers allowed. It is called quality family time for a reason.
One of my favorite family activities is to find a reason to help in the community and/ or internationally. Recently, we organized a contribution of baby items, clothes and food to be sent to Nicaragua and Honduras after terrible Hurricane category 5 hit the two countries and people lost absolutely everything. There are so many local organizations that also need help. This is a way to show and teach children about being kind and helping one another.
Say Please and Thank You: I teach my children to look in the eye when they say please and thank you. In other cultures like in Asia, for example, looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of disrespect, specially if that someone is older. In Asia is a sign of respect when talking to an elderly person a child looks down. I explain that to them, but here in our culture we look in the eye when we talk, as a sign of respect. I also tell them Please and Thank You when they do something for me or help around the house. Look at them in the eyes and tell them you are thankful for something they did. I understand that times have changed but I think that politeness should never go out of style. I teach my son, for example, to open the door specially for ladies and hold the elevator door if someone is approaching. Not because ladies cannot open their own doors, but because is a nice gesture regardless of gender. And to help the elderly if they need an extra hand. Living with COVID we have to make a few adjustments to this behavior. But I still reinforce it whenever I can.
Clean house, clean environment: As a sign of respect all family members should help around the house. If you think this is impossible… I understand completely! This is the hardest for the kids to follow. I explain to them, that because we respect each other we all do our part in keeping the house clean and organized, like picking up shoes and clothes because we love our house . We also do our part in the world with recycling, for example, because we love people who live in the world and we want to keep our environment clean. A lot of guidance and support is required here. So, if it doesn’t work the first few times, breathe and don’t give up.
Shoes and clothes have a home. Their home is inside the closet. Why? Because it shows respect for themselves, because they want a clean environment, respect for mom (so she doesn’t have to clean up all of the time), respect for the person that comes after so they don’t find a messy house. It starts and it ends with the same word respect. Remember the two magic words, simplicity and consistency. Make is simple for you and your family, explanations work best when they are short and to the point with a consistent approach.
Think of family as a team: I talk about this in the blog “My 5 Secrets for a Happy Long Lasting Relationship“; about being a team with your partner first, and being a team with the entire family. Well… here, both mom and dad should be on the same page when educating children. I remember when growing up, my mom and dad had different opinions on, for example, sleep overs, going out with friends, going to the movies with friends, etc; creating an opportunity for children to take sides and take advantage of situations to their best interest. Remember they are children and you know what is best for them for a reason. When you make a decision, stick to it. If you are single parent, stay strong in your convictions and teach them what you think is right without comparing your life and decisions to other families. If you have a partner agree on decisions first, before talking to the children. If you have different opinions talk with each other first, then come to a conclusion while supporting each other and staying strong in your decisions. Remember my two magic words: Simplicity and Consistency are key when making decisions to keep the family together as a team.
Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs there are. It is always asking: Am I doing the right thing? … and many times having the feeling of being lost, completely lost. Remember that you are doing the best you can and positive changes take time, children’s education take time, lots of patience and lots of love. Be kind to yourself and breathe. Setting strong family traditions today will set the foundation for their tomorrow. We want the best for our children and we have an enormous opportunity because how we raise them is how we are going to live our future, how they are going to treat us when we grow old, how they will raise their own children, and how they will pass on values, culture, and history to the next generation.
I would love to hear your tips and healthier eating alternatives in the comments below.
Sending love and peace,