4 Ways to Nurture Your Family’s Growth
Having a family is no easy task. Like any garden you’ll ever tend, it requires immeasurable amounts of time and effort to encourage and give everyone what they need in order to grow. Though each member of a family unit can have different interests, it doesn’t mean they can’t be respected and honored and, eventually, brought together in harmony.
Communicate in Person
Find a time that works for everyone. Then, utilize that time to talk and learn more about what’s going on. You’d be surprised how many people, when I first start seeing them, tell me that they try to have family dinners or family time, but it’s so hard to find the time.
Excuses are always the same. Scheduling issues, workloads that interfere, after-school activities, homework, etc. If there’s an excuse to be found, they’ll find it.
Just like everything else in life, if you want something to happen, you’ll make time for it. Same for family time; this is a time that you ask questions about each other. And the more detailed, the better—make them open-ended to keep the conversation going. For instance, “What was the best thing that happened today?” Asking specific questions provides insight into each other’s preferences, what they’re into that moment, and what you might be able to do together.
Cultivate Shared Interests
Want to facilitate growth? Find activities and interests each person enjoys. Then make a plan to do them. It could be anything from bowling to dancing to park outings and museums, or just a simple trip to the library. It doesn’t need to cost money; the point is to bring everyone together to do something that fuels their soul. You might also rotate between activities that each one likes. Even though another child might moan and groan, it’s important for the parents to remind them to appreciate, honor, and respect each other’s choices. By helping your children learn to tolerate and respect their siblings’ tastes, you’re preparing them to understand others in the larger world.
Sounds simple, right? Throughout our days, we’re constantly posting (and reading the posts of others) on Facebook, sharing our day’s events, and allowing ourselves to be influenced by the doings of others. What we forget, in the meantime, is to listen to what each other has to say. Listening takes patience, time, and effort, but it’s time well-invested. When you listen to what others say and truly hear what’s going on in their lives, then you have a better chance of understanding who they are and what they need from each other as well as what they need and want in life.
Respect Different Choices
You might not agree with choices and interests that your children take part in, but it’s important to respect who they are. As long as those choices don’t include something legally or financially dangerous, listen. I’ve known a few kids who choose a rival sports team than their parent. It makes them feel different, as though liking the opposition gives them something to debate. So long as it can be done respectfully, who’s to say who’s right? If it opens dialogue, so be it.
Often children embrace technology and music that’s different from their parents’ tastes. Well, wasn’t there a time when you thought you knew about something “new” when you were younger? We aren’t meant to be carbon copies of our parents. If you see your kid, or a spouse for that matter, rooting for a team that’s not your own, well—who cares, so long as they feel passionate about it. What’s important is to respect and enjoy your time together.
By applying these four ways to nurture your family, you can enhance family growth, whether you have young children, teen children, or young adult children. And remember—it’s never too late to make time to spend with them.
Dr. Janna Fond, PsyD, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has helped thousands of clients over the years deal with numerous issues, from family and personal relationships to intimacy and deeper couples problems. Her new book, Everything Will Be OK: Blending Psychology and Spirituality to Heal Ourselves, offers practical reassurance on how to overcome challenges that seem impossible to resolve. For more information visit jannafond.com.