It is not a hard sell for parents to understand why they might want to have a more close and well-connected family in the new year. It is no secret that good family relationships are often enjoyable for their own sake, but also are important vehicles for training your children to be the responsible and conscientious adults this world so desperately needs. Cultivating a family culture of positivity is the best way to transmit your values and demonstrate the merit of your chosen way of life, and convince your children of the benefits of following suit.
Being raised within a positive family environment, children are more likely to feel secure and loved and able to focus on the task of childhood: nurturing curiosity and learning about the world they live in. Further, when children feel safe and secure they are less likely to have difficulty in issues of eating, sleeping, or acting out behavior. In the new year, make time to establish new family practices or reinforce old ones that increase that sense of love and connection between you, that will set your family up to have a more successful and connected year.
Balance Work and Family Life
As a parent, often it feels like it’s all you can do to juggle the plethora of responsibilities on your plate, whether work, friends, general management of the household, or spending time with family. It can feel overwhelming when it seems there are always areas for improvement and never a sense that you’ve done enough. However, how you choose to manage the responsibilities you have can make a huge difference in your relationships with your family. Being able to work in a way that incorporates your job into family life or vice versa is often the best recipe, allowing for you to feel more in control of your life, and not overrun by any one responsibility demanding too much from you.
Look After Yourself and Your Relationship
Parents often fall into the trap of spending all their time concerned with the little ones in their lives and forgetting about themselves. However, if you’re not taking care of yourself, or by extension your relationship, you run the risk of feeling miserable and resentful and being fully unable to give your children the support that they need. It’s okay to admit that both you and your relationship needs work, and it is a sign of health to continue to build upon your own individual hobbies and not fully forget yourself in the process of parenting. Even if as a couple, you spend one night a month out on a date, this is still considered a success in feeding the flame that fuels your family.
Create Positive Practice of Discipline & Encouragement
Often, in today’s present culture, we misunderstand the idea behind discipline. We ascribe a whole host of negative associations with the concept, instead of understanding it as intended, as regular time for instruction, for teaching, or training children in what’s expected of them. This might look like a weekly family meeting where important topics are discussed, or where a book is read together and ideas of morality are shared and explored.
Just as important as discipline, however, is praising and encouraging positive actions that your children are already doing. Within a family context, this might look like making a weekly family award to go to the member that did a kind deed, or was especially respectful or hard working. You might ask each of the family members to make a suggestion for who deserves the “family member of the week” title, and in doing so, encourage them to pay attention and take note of positive behaviors in others, and their ability to replicate them themselves.
Set Consistent Boundaries and Limits
When there is a clear hierarchy of family structure and consistent rules about conduct, rather than feeling caged in or frustrated by inconsistency, children in actuality feel more secure and have a greater understanding of what is expected of them. It is hard work to be a parent, to stand by your rules, and not to give in to the demands or desires of your littles, however, consistency is the only path to ensuring that they are well-rounded, able to self-soothe in in the face of difficult emotions, and tolerate distress. Additionally, this is also the path towards gaining respect from your children, knowing that you will say what you mean and mean what you say. This is actually beneficial and reassuring to children.
Create Opportunities for Quality Family Time
When they’re young, more than anything, children just want to spend time with their parents. Being flexible, and allowing for impromptu trips to the park, or going all-out for a family game night can create memories for the children to look back on fondly. From the beginning, it’s also important to spend one-on-one time with them and develop individual relationships with each child to build on when in a family context.
Whether it’s sitting down to eat as a family, giving you all a chance to connect and talk about important issues, or surprising the kids with a fun outing for you to all do together, creating fun family traditions will help to keep your kids involved and engaged as they grow, and will help them to associate fun with the family, and feel nostalgic towards their childhood. Try to organize some time together as a family perhaps beginning a few times a week when they’re younger and placing less demands as the children age. As a parent of adolescents it is also your job to help them learn to manage their time: of course it’s developmentally appropriate for them to desire to spend more time with friends, however, helping them to balance this with a healthy appreciation of family is vital.
Many of the tasks of parenting rely on your ability to work hard in the present, creating specific family culture and identity, and then stand back, hoping you’ve accomplished the task.
Although it may be difficult, putting in the time and energy required, and even checking in with a family therapist at important milestones can help you to rest assured that you are laying the groundwork for a successful future together.