Healthy family relationships that are consistent and predictable in the early years help children develop a strong sense of belief in self, ability to learn and grow as well as motivation and confidence to explore and express along the way.
Family connections and relationships have great impact on the brain development of young children. They are learning who they are in relationship to those closest to them and their abilities to function in healthy ways has everything to do with the quality of those family relationships.
These healthy family relationships help children to grow into adolescents and adults who know how to communicate effectively and strategically rather than having habitual reactions to what is happening around them.
11 ways to build healthy family relationships
- Time together everyday. Establish consistent time every day where the family gathers together and connects. Sharing a meal together every day or winding down together at night before bed are good times to connect. Don’t fall into the “busy-ness” trap that interferes with family together time. Make coming together every day top priority.
- Smiles and laughter create connection. Look for opportunities to spark joy with one another. Share a funny cartoon or video you find. Tell jokes and riddles. Watch a funny movie together. Look for the light side especially in times of stress.
- Create one-on-one connections. Married parents need time together as a couple to connect one-on-one to keep their relationships strong. Also, children need one-on-one time with siblings and each parent too. Be sure every family members is connecting with every other family member with dyad time together. In order to build healthy relationships throughout the family, special time and attention must be given to enhancing those one-one-one relationships.
- Plan a vacation or stay-cation together. Planning the fun event can be almost as fun as the event itself! Include the children, come together around the coffee table and look at brochures or websites and let everyone share their preferences as you plan a super fun trip or stay-cation together.
- Daily chores can be a fun way to connect. There’s no rule that says doing all the things around the house that need to get done has to be drudgery! Crank up the tunes, sing and dance as you all work together to clean and organize the house.
- Co-create the family guidelines and expectations. Invite the children to participate in considering what the expectations for the way the family operates should be. This creates a sense of respect for all and empowers children to be a part of the solution when there a problem arises.
- Plan and prepare meals together. Much like the process of planning a vacation together, every week include all members of the family in what you’ll be having for dinner together. Create shopping lists, review recipes and divide the tasks to prep the meals together. The meal will always taste better when one has made a contribution.
- Be curious. Curiosity yields connection. Express curiosity about your spouse’s or your child’s opinions, feelings, insights. Ask questions and listen – really listen – without correction or redirection.
- Nurture healthy family relationships in NATURE. Make it a point to get outdoors together! Do a Nature scavenger hunt. Watch the sunset together. Build a snow man or a sand castle. Catch (and release) fireflies. Go for a bike ride along the river. Have a picnic at the park.
- Engage in creative activities together. Gather the craft supplies and you need not spend a lot of money. Empty paper towel rolls, paper plates, yarn, paper lunch sacks, glue, markers, paper, school glue, googly eyes, craft feathers, pipe-cleaner, and get creative! Grab the sidewalk chalk and create a family master-piece on the driveway or sidewalk.
- Plant a garden. Nothing serves as a better metaphor for nurturing growth of a family than planting and nurturing a garden. Planning, planting and daily care of the garden together as a family can be a fun and bonding experience. When your garden yields vegetables, fruits or flowers it’s such a delight to share and enjoy as a family.
In order to give children the best chance to grow into confident, well-adjusted adults, it is worthwhile to create a plan for how you will build healthy family relationships in small ways every day. Children benefit from seeing their parents working together and communicating clearly and respectfully. Children need meaningful time with parents and siblings as well as healthy touch, bonding play and connecting conversations in order to grow and thrive. See which of the above you might begin incorporating into your family life and watch the benefits blossom!