In many ways, we are more connected a society than we’ve ever been. Social media makes instantaneous contact, with people half a world away, no more than an afterthought. It can do wonders for socialization and friendship. And yet, it seemingly has the polar opposite effect on immediate family relations.
Family time was on the decline well before social media was as prevalent as it is now. However, our “smartphone culture” has only served to exacerbate the issue. It’s not just kids fault either.
Strong family relationships have been shown to mitigate drug use and increase academic performance. We have a few helpful ways to maintain your familial bonds in a digitally focused world.
It doesn’t have to be every night and it doesn’t have to be dinner. Even if it’s just one time a week, having a sit-down meal as a family can go a long way. Think of it as an opportunity to check in on each other. No phones, no laptops, no social media, no emails. Granted, these are difficult to just start up as there is likely to be resistance. If you can push through and keep at it, it can be a lasting tradition that your kids will carry with them all their lives. (Cooking the meal together adds an extra level of bonding.)
The positive effects are not only emotional and social but nutritional as well. Because you’re there to monitor their eating habits, kids who eat meals with their families statistically eat more fruits and vegetables.
Kids (young kids especially) are like pliable lumps of clay. You are the sculptor. They will take their cues on acceptable behavior from you. Try to show them the value of kindness. This doesn’t mean spoil them. However, if you show them how much you value kindness simply for the sake of helping someone else, with no promise of personal benefit, they will value it too. Instilling these positive traits is likely to give you kids better interpersonal skills and help prepare them for the challenges that life has in store. It can be things as simple as holding doors or letting someone with one item go ahead of you if you have a full cart.
Don’t Be Afraid to Show Affection
Research has shown that children who experience affection from their parents are more likely to be healthier and happier later in life. This probably isn’t a shocking revelation, but as kids get older and start to push away, it’s tempting to just let them. It’s an impulse you should try to suppress. Now, this doesn’t mean go out of your way to embarrass them, but don’t assume they know the way you feel about them at all times. Tell them you love them. Tell them you’re proud of them. This mental reinforcement will make it easier for them to strike out on their own with faith in themselves. It can also lead to stronger professional careers.
Give Your Kids Space
As counter-intuitive as it may seem (especially considering everything we just mentioned) giving your child an appropriate amount of space can actually make the family closer. The tricky part is determining what’s appropriate. It’s different for everyone. A good place to start is by letting them know that you are their greatest resource, but not there to simply solve all their problems for them (again, unless appropriate). Be attentive in their life. Be curious. Follow them on social media, but maybe don’t comment or post on their public profiles. It’s something you’ll have to feel out for yourself.
Being a parent is hard. Your kids are likely more intuitive than you give them credit for though. If your heart is in the right place, they can probably tell. If you have any other bonding advice other parents can use, please leave it in the comments section. Go hug your kids!