Sometimes, when the family has become disconnected, it takes a little bit more than encouragement to be open to the idea of spending time together. Instead of experiencing the benefits, spending time together as a family can become a source of conflict. The following steps can help your family resolve conflicts over how to spend time and restore family closeness.
IDENTIFY THE AREAS OF CONFLICT
As you discuss the problem areas, be sure to keep the focus on the problems, not the personalities. For example, if one family might say, “Zach never wants to have dinner with us!” Zach will probably become defensive. This is a great opportunity for you to model a better way of communicating the same idea without alienating Zach. You could say, “When even one person is missing, it feels like the family is incomplete.” In this scenario, Zach is not the cause of the problem. On the contrary, Zach will hear and feel that the family wants to spend time with him.
MAKE YOUR PLAN OR SUGGESTION SPECIFIC AND MEASURABLE
For example, “We will eat dinner together every Monday night” is a more specific goal than “We need to spend more time together.” This is a powerful technique in goal setting.
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO EXPRESS EMOTIONS IN A NON-BLAMING WAY
Allow each family member time to express his or her feelings. Use I-statements, express how you feel, and avoid blaming or complaining.
ESTABLISH WAYS OF COMMUNICATION
Together, decide how you will communicate with each other. Some ideas include setting up a bulletin board where messages can be exchanged, writing notes, sending e-mails, and having a family meeting every Sunday at 7:00 pm. It is up to you to decide how best to stay in communication. It is very important that you have one master family calendar so there is no double booking or forgotten appointments.
IDENTIFY ACTIVITIES THAT CAN BOTH BE SHARED BY YOUNGER AND OLDER FAMILY MEMBERS
Some families have conflicts because young members want to do things with older members, and the older members resent the intrusion. Together, talk about how this is happening in your family and think of some ways you can all enjoy each other, regardless of age and interests.