“The family” is described as the central unit of human society. In the African Human Rights Law Journal the principle of family unity states that “all children have a right to a family.” If this idea of a family unit is so fundamentally vital in the growth and development of children, why is it crumbling?
David Brookes (a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a columnist for The New York Times) writes “We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children.”
So why fight for family unity?
Psalm 133:1 reads “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – life should be GOOD and PLEASANT! Where there is a lack of unity, things begin to fall apart, and the family is no different.
So what is the glue?
My father-in-law stated it simply – it’s living out our faith, not just professing a Christian faith. As believers we are called to “put on love which is the perfect bond of unity” Colossians 3:14, Daryl Conant makes some interesting observations in his book “Civilisation: The Undeniable Truth.” He says that “a family that follows a faithful religion tends to stay intact”. I do believe that Jesus is that glue, when we make Him a priority, praying, praying and praying some more.
So what can we do?
1. Focus on our relationship with Jesus
2. Slow down and learn to be a family
3. Communicate with each member of the family
4. Plan time together (that means in your diary)
Some practical tips:
There is an increased likelihood of positive developmental benefits (better health, better eating habits, strong mental, emotional & social skills, improved behaviour & better academic performance) in children whose families share a meal together. This does not have to be dinner, it can be breakfast or a snack or just one supper a week.
HAVE A CONVERSATION
This is not just talking to our children or at them, but talking with them. This means listening to them, responding to them and being present enough to hear what they are saying. Bed time or mealtime is a great time to catch up on the day. Be sure to ask open ended questions such as “What was the best part of your day?” or “What was the funniest thing that happened today?” Adults need to share about their day too, as children feel important when you confide in them.
Riding bikes, baking, playing a family board game or introducing the tickle monster – these are not only fun but reduce frustration, encourage great social skills and good manners. The activity doesn’t really matter, it’s the fact that you are doing something fun together that is important. Have you ever tried a “YES” day – a day where you choose to say “yes” to all reasonable requests from the family – it could be fun!
Life can be so serious. Try loosening up to help your children learn to be silly and to take a break from seriousness. Sing like an opera singer, join in on their ‘knock, knock’ jokes, have a dance party in the kitchen or have an impromptu picnic in the boot of your car, or build a fort and sleep in the living room. Turn the small moments into big memories.
REACH OUT AND TOUCH
Touch is so profound – even if it’s in passing. It sends a powerful non-verbal message of closeness, connection and nurturing. It’s easy when they are little because you can pick them up or they can sit on your lap. It gets tricky when they are older but it’s so important to remember to hug, to squeeze a shoulder or even have a morning cuddle over tea & coffee.
It’s hard to remember to take it slow and unplug (I am talking about computers & phones, not just TV and electronic gaming). We have become dependent on our phones and we forget to live in the moment and so miss out on connecting with our family because of it. Start with an hour a day and maybe spend one day in the school holidays unplugged!