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I was walking in the grocery store the other day and I ran into a friend from high school. We started talking and she asked me about my cousin who went to school with us. Our mutual friend asked how she is doing.  I was actually caught off guard because, in reality, I didn’t know how my cousin was doing. She and I have lost touch. I started to think about how disconnected I was feeling from other family members including parents, siblings, and extended family. Then, I considered my children. They don’t have the same memories that I have with my extended family. How can I bridge the gap that has occurred? How can we, as family, stay connected across the miles?

Here are 7 Ways To Stay Connected With Long-Distance Family:

1. Old Fashioned Snail Mail

Mailing correspondence may seem old-fashioned but it is tried and true. Handwriting letters has become a lost art. Letter writing allows you to share in your own words what is happening in your life. It provides a window for your family to see into. Postcards are another tool you can use. If you see a postcard that reminds you of a family member, write a note saying, “I saw this, and I thought of you.” This lets your family know that although miles divide you, they are still on your mind and in your heart. 

2. Create A Family Newsletter

Whether you choose to do this monthly, quarterly, or yearly, it provides updates to your long-distance family. It shares with them: honors, awards, funny moments, celebrations. Let your children help design it and have input into it. Make a family logo and motto to go at the top along with a name like, “Keeping Up With The Joneses” or “Watson Family Gazette.” You could do this online or make it a family production and put it into print. ☆ You could make a “chain letter” that gets added to by a family member and mailed to the next person on the list and keeps circulating around your family, keeping everyone in the loop. 

3. Send Care Packages

Every holiday season, as a child, I would go with my grandmother as she mailed holiday packages to my uncles who lived out of town. In the boxes would be a pound cake, fruit cake, cookies, preserves, and other sweets. You don’t have to choose the same items. You can create your own theme with the box. One theme could be Our Town. Select items representing the town you live in. You could choose My Favorite Things where you select items your sister, aunt, cousin, or dad loves. Or, even a box of Things That Remind Me Of You.

4. Travel Together

It may be fun to select a location midway between you and your siblings and spend some time there together. It may be fun to coordinate time in the summer with the grandparents and cousins and call it “Cousin Camp.” It may be a blast to schedule a multi-family vacation to the beach, mountains, amusement parks, etc.

5. Book Club

For many, storytime is an integral part of their bedtime routine. Create space for grandparents who live out of town to be “guest readers” via phone, Skype, FaceTime, Messenger or video. Another idea is for the adults in the family to choose to read the same book and then have a discussion about it. Even the kids could read the same book and draw pictures about the scenes or main characters.

6. Go Virtual

Technology is an innovative way in which families can stay connected. It may look and even feel different from the past. Nevertheless, it allows family members to maintain connections. Don’t be afraid of trying some “high-tech” ways to stay in touch with your long-distance family members. Here are some examples:

  • Have Virtual Dinner Night: Each family makes the same meal and you sit down ‘together’ at the same time to eat via ZOOM, FaceTime, Google MEET, etc.
  • Create Family Group Texts: Families can create a text message group or utilize a messaging app to share information with each other.
  • Virtual Game Night: Families can choose to play online games (PlayStation, XBOX), board/card games (UNO, Battleship), Minute to Win It, or Charades via ZOOM or Google MEET.
  • Schedule Weekly/Monthly Calls: Families can utilize whatever platform they have available (i.e., Facetime, ZOOM, Skype). On the calls, birthdays, special awards or everyday moments can be shared.
  • Facebook: Create a Family Facebook page where you can post pictures, videos, etc.
  • Family and Friends Movie Night. (Netflix for Chrome) Families can watch the same movie at the same time while being in their own homes. Then use FaceTime or ZOOM to talk about it.

7. Cardboard Cutout 

Select a fun picture of the family member you choose and get a life-sized cardboard cut-out made. It allows your kids to recognize their family members. It’s also a way for that family member to be “present” at events such as a spelling bee, soccer games, or track meets.

If you’re feeling disconnected, that’s when you need to be intentional about communicating and connecting with long-distance family members. Whether you choose to make a phone call spontaneously or you send out a calendar invite for everyone to group chat, making that first step to check-in can change the direction of your connection

Don’t get discouraged if everyone can’t make everything. We have to recognize that we’re all dealing with life in some form or fashion. Also, remember to stay in touch with family and friends who live close to you. In this current time, everyone could benefit from a call or note letting them know someone is thinking about them.

When I became a parent, I was not prepared for the “surge” of protectiveness that took over my body. I felt like it was my job to protect my child from all sorts of hurts, disappointments, fears, and sadness. I may have unknowingly included their father and other family members, too. Did they wash their hands before holding my child? Are they following my parental instructions to the letter of my law? Why is he playing so rough with them? Learning how to moderate my “Grizzly Bear Mom” tendencies helped me become a more supportive parent.  

Research has shown that being a supportive parent has far-reaching benefits for your child. Being a supportive parent helps your child be better equipped to handle stressful situations, be able to handle their own emotions, be capable of regulating their behavior, and get along with others.

Here are a few steps you can take on your journey of being a supportive parent for your child:

1. Be as empathetic as possible.

Being able to empathize with your child means you can place yourself in their shoes. And consider: How tight are the shoes? Do they have holes in the toes? Be aware of a situation they experience that mirrors one from your childhood. If your childhood experience or trauma becomes the focus, your child will feel unheard and marginalized. Now is not the time to help them learn to build tough skin. When you empathize, you become a soft place for your child to land when experiencing difficulties. 

2. Enjoy being a student of your child.

Becoming a student of your child means you enter their world. You learn about the topics they’re interested in even if it holds no interest to you. Your child may be interested in: Sports (baseball, soccer, lacrosse, football, tennis), Music (instruments, singing, producing videos), Art (drawing, painting, photography) Animé, Video Gaming, Crafting, Animals, or a myriad of other topics. Dig deeper and say things like: Tell me what you like about… The key here is to remember that your child is a separate person from you. Children feel seen and valued when parents ask about what they like.

3. Be open and askable.

For many parents, showing support means doing something (also known as having the “fixer syndrome”). Here’s the BEST thing your child needs you to do for them: Listen, Listen, Listen. Listen to understand, listen for more information, and listen to identify emotions. You can also give your child space to process what they’re feeling. As you become more open and askable, you’ll have to guard your reactions, especially when your child shares difficult situations with you such as being bullied, picked on, or teased by others. Believe it or not, your child is very aware of your feelings and will shut down if they feel like you’re upset. Probing statements like “tell me more” allow your child to share on their terms without feeling like they’re being interrogated.

4. Make time to connect.

Create intentional time where you both engage in an activity they really enjoy. Making time in your schedule to play them, watch something with them or even allow them to teach you something new will demonstrate your support to them. Children feel supported when they know they are cared for, encouraged to grow, and feel a sense of belonging in your family. 

As you work through these key steps to becoming a supportive parent, remember it’s all about process, not perfection. There will be days you’ll miss a step or two. Becoming a supportive parent is about seeking to understand your child’s world, including their feelings, fears, and frustrations without making the situation about you. When you create this connection with your child, you’re actually creating an environment of support and helping them feel like they belong. Ultimately, you’re preparing your child for LIFE.

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A look that needs no explanation, a touch on the arm that says I love you, an unexpected hug because even though you think you’re hiding it well—your spouse knows you need it. Pretty much all of the warm and fuzzies happen when you feel connected to your spouse. And there’s nothing quite like that feeling.

Having a deep connection with your partner enriches your marriage and makes it fulfilling. The understanding you have between each other, the romance, and delighting in the little things (like waking up together) always feels more natural when you feel connected to your sweetheart.

Sometimes, it can feel a little challenging to connect when other things in life keep popping up and vying for your attention. But don’t get discouraged, there are little things you can do each day to pull your spouse a little closer even when you’re apart. 

Ways To Feel More Connected To Your Spouse:

1. Embrace the Micro-Moments of love.

You don’t need a grandiose plan to show the tenderness you feel towards your spouse. Think small and build from that. When you pass each other in the kitchen, touch each other. If you go to work, whether at the same or different times, kiss each other goodbye, say “I love you.” Write a note and stick in a lunch box, on the mirror or hide it somewhere you know your partner will find it. You could write a compliment, a note of anticipation to be together again—the options are endless. Send a text just because without any agenda beyond the desire to connect. (Don’t ask about what’s for dinner or bring up something they are responsible to do.) These small moments of connection can go a long way and they don’t take more than 30 seconds to do.

2. Rekindle the flame with a nickname.

It may sound funny at first, but whispering sweet nothings in your spouse’s ear can spark a smile, a kiss… maybe something more. Taking a moment to show adoration and endearment with a simple “honey,” “sweetie,” “boo,” maybe even “sexy,” or “hot stuff.” 

Grab their attention, tell them you love them, and take a few moments to bask in who they are. Flirt with your spouse! Takes a little more effort, but anything worth your time does. Change your usual, “How was your day?” to “I’d love to make your day even better ;),” and choose what that connection looks like.

3. Do a task or chore for your spouse.

The catch is to not point it out, bring it up, or expect recognition. Do this as a reminder to yourself that you care for your spouse, that you’d go out of your way for them. Plus, if you had time to do something they normally do, by getting it out of the way, you’ve made more time to be together!

4. Be Intentional.

Being connected to your spouse means you make your interactions count. (That may mean being intentional amidst all your busyness and being sure they happen.) Run an errand with them. Ask them to run an errand with you. Make those car conversations count. Go for a walk around the block together. Tell them to dress up fancy for a night in or out. 

Another way to be intentional is through conversation. Instead of saying “I like your outfit,” say, “That color is so flattering on youit brings out your eyes.” Or when your partner is about to leave for work change, “Have a great day at work!” to “I’m so proud of you, you have such a skill for what you do!” These verbal affirmations communicate that you’re paying attention to what’s going on behind the scenes.

When your partner is telling you about their day, opening up about how they’re feeling, exploring a new topic for conversation, try giving them your full attention and some verbal affirmations. Not only will it show them that you’re present, but it’ll also show that you take interest in them, are still curious and want to know more about who they are today. Ask open-ended questions, “What got you interested in this?” “How can I be there for you?” 

These 4 little ways to feel more connected to your spouse can make a big difference in your relationship! In marriage, the pursuit for each other never stops. You fall in love with each other over and over again as you continue to change and go through new experiences and seasons. If you want to try a new experience or need help sparking some conversation, we have some great free date nights you can do at home—check them out here! The two of you have a daily opportunity to express the love you share, and the more love you share, the more connected you’ll feel!

Some bonus blogs to keep that connection going!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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We are four months into the Coronavirus Pandemic. When it first began, we were so shocked by the shelter-in-place rules that we decided to embrace this interruption in our “normal” lives. We were intentional about dinners as a family, spending quality time with each other and we even began family projects. Now, our teens have had enough “togetherness.” They either want to enter the world again or they may be withdrawn. For us, we so enjoyed our time with our teens that we don’t want it to stop. 

How can you deepen your connection with your teen?

1. Let them know their friends are welcome.

I mean, who’s not up for a party? Be up for a friend gathering for s’mores, a cookout, or an outdoor movie. Let your house be the place they want to hang out and don’t let money get in the way. If you can’t afford to supply all the food yourself, have everyone bring something. The key is to set the wheels in motion. As an added bonus, you’ll get to know their friends, too. Make sure that you get the “thumbs-up” from parents and are aware of social distancing and mask recommendations in your community. 

2. Disconnect to connect.

Multi-tasking is a major conversation-killer. For example, if your teen hates it when you talk on the phone when they are in the car, they may have a valid point. Who wants to feel excluded from a conversation? So, try to intentionally avoid talking when you are riding together. You know that little button that lets people know you’re driving? Use it, and make the time together in the car count. You have a captive audience and precious time in the car, so use it wisely. This goes for the dinner table and the living room, too.

3. Respect their space. 

It is key that you respect your teen’s space if you want to deepen your connection with your teen. If you have no reason to question their safety, please allow them some room to have their own thoughts, dreams, and goals. Give them the time and space to be a young adult. The more that you crowd them, the less likely they will be to share with you or even spend time with you.

4. Listen to them, even when it’s difficult to just listen.

When our teens hurt, we hurt. It may be easy to go into “Protective Mode” or “Fix-It Mode.” What they need from you is to listen and help them process—not take over, freak out, ask a million questions, or launch into a lecture. 

5. Find out what they like to do and join (apps like Snapchat, TikTok, read the same book and discuss, re-decorate a room together, etc.)

This may not be second nature to you. You may find that liking a post or trying to keep a Snap Streak alive shows that you care (and if you mess up the streak, they’ll let you know, which shows that they care, too). Allow them to teach you a new popular dance, then dance with them in a crazy TikTok video. 

6. Get into their world, even if you don’t understand it. 

You may not be a big fan of video gaming, sports, or animé. You may even dismiss its usefulness in your teen’s life. However, they have meaning to your teen. Getting involved with things that are important to them demonstrates that you value their interests and so, value them. It may open the door for you to invite them to join you in things you do. They may actually shock you by saying “yes.” 

7. If you bake it, they will come (and maybe even talk).

I have NEVER had my teens turn me down for a little one-on-one time if there is food or dessert involved. You may actually get more than a one-word answer to a question. This may look a little different depending on which child I’m wooing, for sure. It can be as simple as warming a pecan pie for my high schooler or as involved as cooking hamburgers on the grill for my college graduate. Once you find what works, it’s a win. 

These are jus a few ways for parents to increase their quality time with their teens. It’s important to make the most of the time that you have left with them at home. Before you know it, they will be off to college, military, or the work world.  

Here are some other blogs that may help you deepen your connection with your teen:

HOW DO I GET MY TEEN TO TALK TO ME?

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY TEEN IS DEPRESSED?

I THINK COVID-19 HAS MADE MY TEEN HATE ME

HOW DO I STOP FIGHTING WITH MY TEEN?

PARENTING THROUGH FORTNITE

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It’s the taboo subject nobody wants to talk about, but many think about it… a lot. What is it? Sex. 

Sex and marriage—the questions are endless. For the sake of time, I’ve boiled it down to 10 things every couple should know about sex.

Here we go…

1. The quality of your sex life often has more to do with what happens in your relationship outside the bedroom.

First and foremost, for you to keep your sex life going strong you must remember that foreplay begins long before you make your way to the bedroom. Look for ways to continually reconnect with each other throughout the day. Happy, stable couples have hundreds of ways they connect. Think about all of the creative ways you came up with to flirt when you were dating and do the ones that got you the best response. These types of activities create positive, warm feelings toward your spouse and in turn are building intimacy in your relationship. 

2. Anticipation and preparation stoke passion.

Typically, couples enjoy frequent sex in the early years of marriage, but once children come into the picture and the level of intensity increases at work, sex seems to get kicked to the curb. Consider this:

Passion = S2 I – Two sexual beings joined by intimacy 

Dr. Pat Love, in her book Hot Monogamy, makes this point. If you only have two sexual beings and no intimacy, you cannot have passion. Did you know, two-thirds of women have “sexy brains,” which means they don’t desire sex until they are in the midst of doing it? The majority of men have “sexy body brains,” meaning if their heart is beating they are interested in sex. Interestingly, men need two to three times more touching than women, and most men are touch-deprived. This is important information for couples who desire to increase passion and intimacy in their marriage. You have to do your homework. 

  • Know what arouses you—it can’t be a mystery. 
  • What is it that your spouse does that is such a turn on?   
  • What are three activities that make you feel close to each other?   
  • When do you feel closest and most connected to your spouse? 
  • When do you feel most loved? 

Tell your spouse the answers to these questions. This sets the stage for passion and intimacy to grow in your marriage. Communication is a huge part of great sex. Research shows that talking about sex during the first year of marriage is correlated with high marital satisfaction for men. Discussions after the first year are highly correlated with female satisfaction in marriage. As you talk and discover what brings closeness, guard it with a vengeance and practice it faithfully. Pat Love calls these activities “gateway activities” because they usually lead to opportunities for connectedness, increased intimacy, and lovemaking. Be courageous enough to love your spouse in the way he/she needs to be loved. Whether you are a “sexy body” brain or a “sexy brain” person, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

3. Talk about it.

Yup, I said it. Talk about your sex life, what you like, and what you don’t like. Are there things that make you uncomfortable? Are there things your spouse could do that might make it better? What brings you sexual fulfillment? How often would you like to make love?

4. There is no set amount of sex every couple should have in order to have a great sex life.

Obviously, it’s personal, but a lot of people want to know what is normal, so to speak. Keeping in mind, what is great for one couple may not be for another couple, research involving 2400 married couples that was published in 2015 found the more sex a couple had, the happier they were. So, the question for you as a couple to answer is, what is your magic number?

5. Teach your kids that your bedroom is your bedroom.

While this may sound totally unrealistic, you might be surprised how well it works once they get used to the idea. Think of your bedroom as your sanctuary. An escape from the craziness of the world and the place where you share meaningful intimate moments with the one you love.

6. Novelty Gets Your Attention

What changes do you need to make to keep sex fresh, fun, and adventuresome? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day gets old real fast. If you always approach sex in the same way, do the same things in the same place, you can find yourself feeling bored, unsatisfied and in a rut. Find different ways to delight your partner by doing the unexpected. 

7. Be intentional about keeping your energy and focus on your marriage.

The number one reason couples grow apart is they turn their interest and energy away from their relationship. Regardless of what your spouse is doing right now, you have to decide what kind of spouse you are going to be. Take responsibility for what you are doing that makes it difficult to have passion and an active sex life in your marriage. 

8. A little less talk.

Let me explain. Based on research by Drs. Steven Stosney and Pat Love, when women talk about their feelings, it is soothing to them. However, sharing feelings can make men physically uncomfortable or can cause them to withdraw. When men listen to women talk about their feelings, there is more blood flow to their muscles and they get fidgety. Women respond by thinking they are not listening, and things go downhill from there.

Here’s what Stosney and Love are not saying. They are not saying you shouldn’t ever talk about your feelings around issues in your marriage. They are saying, choose your time wisely. During your most intimate sexual moments, may not be the best time to talk. After lovemaking when you feel connected, men may want to talk more and women may need to talk less. The key is to meet somewhere in the middle.

9. Show physical affection without words.

Make physical nonsexual contact in an affectionate way. A hug, pat on the shoulder, tap on the behind, or squeeze of the hand can all say “I love you” without ever saying a word.

10. And, the super-secret sauce is… CONNECTION.

The more connected you feel to your spouse, the more you will enjoy sex with them. So many movies lead us to believe that sexual attraction, passion, and feeling close to your partner just happen when you are madly in love. The truth is, marriage has plenty of ups and downs, and sometimes heightened stress and anxiety can impact how we feel about our spouse and our energy level for sex. ✶You have to consistently make an effort to not let things creep into your marriage that will steal the passion, sexual intimacy, and closeness you desperately want from and with your spouse.✶

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Summer is here! Normally, everybody would be cheering loudly saying, “Bring it on!” This year, however, plenty of folks feel like summer has been here for the last two months. Now that summer is really here, all of the plans parents thought they had for their kids have likely been thrown out the window because of COVID-19.

With few or no summer camp options, social distancing at pools, many attractions not opening until mid-summer and limited access to child care options, parents definitely have a challenge on their hands if they’re trying to make summer plans. You may be wondering what in the world your family can do in the middle of all that. If so, here are some helpful hints for creating a summer to remember forever for your kids!

Hold a family meeting. Straight out of the gates, hold a family meeting to brainstorm what’s possible within the framework parents have established. Have a little fun with this. No idea is too crazy when you are brainstorming. And who knows? A crazy idea might lead to something that is totally doable.

Come up with a schedule. Sheer exhaustion from shifting to online-everything may tempt you to let summer be a free-for-all with no schedule. However, while having no structure may sound like a blessing to you and your kids, ultimately it can be a real curse. Making a schedule helps keep everybody grounded and in the know about what’s coming next.

Be intentional about creating opportunities for connection. Hanging out in the same house or even the same room isn’t the same as actually doing something to connect with your children. If that sounds like just one more thing to put on your already overwhelming “to-do list,” one easy option is to use First Things First’s 30-Day Family Challenge. Each day has a different fun, quick and easy activity for you and your children to do together.

Get active. Since everybody has probably had their fill of screen time, try going old school! Do some of these things for fun: puzzles, Nerf gun battles, water gun fight, riding bikes, let your kids create a scavenger hunt for the entire family to do, investigate how to make your own Slip ‘N Slide, play board games, Spoons, Charades, make a house of cards, go fishing, learn how to play chess or checkers, camp in the backyard and make s’mores, build a fort or treehouse, play marbles or jacks.

Encourage learning. During your family brainstorm meeting, ask your kids what they would like to learn over the summer. They may want to learn how to cook, change the oil in a car, repair a bike, make a piñata, or find out more about your family history. They may want to take a virtual vacation to an exotic location and learn about the culture, geography and things that are unique to it. Take it a step further and plan your meals, clothing or other activities around that location for the week. Study photography. Read a book together like “Cheaper by the Dozen.” You may even want to invest in some grade-level activity books just to keep your kids sharp.

Plant a garden outside or play around with growing food indoors. There are plenty of free tutorials available if you are new to gardening. Another option is to ask an experienced neighbor for a hand. You can also experiment with different things such as rooting the bottom of a celery stalk and then planting it. You could also cut a pepper in half, then scrape and plant the seeds to see if they will sprout. (Spoiler alert, they should!)

Not all of these activities would require hands-on supervision from parents at all times. In fact, some of them could be child-led or done independently. That would not only give parents a break, but it would help to build self-confidence and independence in your child.

One thing is for sure, one way or the other, this summer will be one for the books. It will either go down in history as the most boring summer on record or the summer our plans got turned upside down so we decided to make lemonade out of the lemons tossed our way. It may not be the easiest summer you’ve ever had, but it could become one of your best summers yet.

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In a quest to find out what makes life meaningful for Americans, the Pew Research Center conducted two separate surveys in 2017. The first asked people to write in their own words what makes their lives feel meaningful, and the second asked respondents to rate how much meaning and fulfillment they drew from different sources.

After reviewing thousands of responses from a diverse range of Americans across the country, in both instances, the most popular answer was clear and consistent: Americans were most likely to mention family when asked what makes life meaningful, and they were most likely to report that they found “a great deal” of meaning in spending time with family. 

Family was ranked first by two-thirds of respondents, career or job came in second place, followed by money. One in five cited their religious faith, friendships and hobbies, all of which came in fourth on the list.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this survey is that it mirrors the results from a study commissioned by the YMCA of the USA, Dartmouth Medical School and the Institute for American Values in 2003. Science has consistently demonstrated that people are hardwired to connect to other people, and to moral and spiritual meaning. They don’t just want these connections; they need them. 

The evidence is overwhelming that we are hardwired for close attachments to other people, beginning with our mothers, fathers and extended family, and then moving out to the broader community. Meeting these basic needs for connection is essential to health and to human flourishing. 

Large and growing numbers of people in our country and around the world are suffering from a lack of meaningful connections to other human beings, especially in today’s digital age. In fact, studies show loneliness is at epidemic proportions in America. However, when people are committed to one another over time and model what it means to be a productive person in society, everyone benefits.

During the holidays, people often evaluate what makes life meaningful for them. As you gather together throughout the holidays with friends and family, don’t underestimate the power of the connections you’re making. Despite the inconveniences that may come with planning for holiday get-togethers, the time you spend with loved ones provides a type of connectedness that is irreplaceable, and it has the potential to impact future generations.

Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 16, 2018.

Ready to take a short family connectedness quiz?

  1. Who is your child’s favorite teacher of all time?
  2. What is your spouse’s favorite thing to do in his/her spare time?
  3. What is your child’s favorite meal?
  4. Given the opportunity for a night out, how would your spouse prefer to spend the evening?
  5. What person outside the family has most influenced your child’s life?
  6. What accomplishment is your child most proud of?
  7. If money were no object, what one thing would your spouse most want to purchase?
  8. What household chore does your spouse dislike the most?
  9. Who is your child’s hero?
  10. What makes your spouse feel truly loved?

Now, go check out your answers to see how close you were to getting them right. Being truly connected to your family is the only way to know all the answers to these questions.

“From a cultural standpoint, the connections that people have with one another and through social networks have been shown to improve the mental, physical and spiritual health of individuals,” said Christopher Brown, anthropologist and president of the National Fatherhood Initiative. “There is something that happens physiologically when people are connected, which is why people do better when they are involved in healthy relationships with others.”

One of the most powerful relationships is between a parent and child. Studies show that parents are the first and most important teachers of children. Kids thrive when they can depend on a reliable parent when they need to talk, when they want input, when they need a hug, or want assurance that life will work out.

Research from the University of Michigan found that the connectedness that takes place during frequent meal times with the family was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems, even better than time spent studying or in a faith setting.

Experts agree that:

  • Conversation at the dinner table shows to increase children’s mental and verbal abilities;
  • Eating together promotes good communication, and strengthens family bonds and relationships;
  • Families who regularly eat together have more cohesion and unity; and
  • Family meals give children a sense of security.

Connections count every day of the year. If you didn’t do so well with the quiz above, this could be a great opportunity for you to re-evaluate how you connect in your home.

This article originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 18, 2018. Click here to read the entire article.

Wondering how you can connect with your kiddos? Here’s a list to get you started!

  • Plan a regular time for Daddy/Child date to do something fun and adventurous.
  • Write a short message to them on a stick-it note and hide it in their lunch.
  • Let your child help you wash the car or fix something.
  • Play a game with them – one that they want to play.
  • If you like to cook, let them help you.
  • Take them to the park.
  • Teach your child how to do something like build a kite, a soapbox derby car, a paper airplane, etc.
  • Tell them what life was like when you were their age.
  • Listen to them – learn about their favorite things, who their friends are, their favorite game, etc.

Eric was married with two children. Life at home was good, and he considered his relationship with his wife to be healthy. They frequently spent time together and intimacy between the two of them was good. He never considered having an affair until he faced a potentially compromising situation with a co-worker.

“Contrary to popular belief, most people do not set out to have an affair,” says Dr. Shirley Glass, infidelity expert and author of Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. “Eric’s situation is all too common. It is faulty thinking to believe that being attracted to someone else means something is wrong at home. It is possible to be attracted to somebody else, even if you have a good marriage.”

Appropriate Boundaries Are Important

“The single most important protector against an affair is appropriate boundaries,” Glass says. “In a culture where men and women are working so closely, you must make sure you are not creating opportunities for an affair to occur. Especially at a time when you might be vulnerable – like right after a fight with your spouse. One of the most common doorways into an affair is where a man and woman who are ‘just friends’ innocently begin to discuss problems in their primary relationship. They are doing their marriage work with someone who might not be a friend to the marriage.”

According to research, 25 percent of women and 40 percent of men will have an extramarital affair at some point.

Glass says that openness, honesty and self-disclosure defines intimacy in marriage. Anything that interferes with that creates walls of secrecy and should be a signal of looming danger. For example, meeting the same person every morning for breakfast in a public place without telling your spouse creates a wall of secrecy in your marriage. If you’re uncomfortable talking with your spouse about it, that’s a warning sign.

Interestingly, only 10 percent of people who leave a marriage for their affair partner actually end up with them. Many say they wish the affair had never happened and that they had worked on their marriage instead. 

So, how can you guard against an affair?

  • Establish clear boundaries.
  • Stay connected to each other and keep the lines of communication open.
  • Instead of creating walls of secrecy, talk with your spouse. Eric came home to his wife and told her about what happened with his co-worker. They were able to talk openly about strategies for clearer boundaries. This strengthened their relationship.
  • If you feel attracted to someone else, never let them know.
  • Watch out for outside influences that encourage infidelity. For example, avoid an environment where other people are fooling around. Be on guard at business socials where drinking and dancing happen and spouses aren’t present.
  • If you have experienced infidelity in your marriage, it’s possible to survive it and be stronger than before. Unfortunately, it takes time for the wounds of betrayal to heal, and both parties must be willing to work together to move the marriage forward.

If you are working through infidelity, Glass recommends the following:

  • Stop the affair. The betrayed person cannot begin to heal until the affair is over.
  • Replace deception with honesty. The person who had the affair must agree to be accountable and create a safe and open environment by letting their partner know where they are.  
  • Because someone has violated trust, you must tell the story of the affair. The only way to tear down the wall of deception is to have an open window – no secrets. Usually, partners want all of the details. They need to put all of the missing pieces together and ask questions. The partner who had the affair must be patient, understanding and willing to share information. This is one way to rebuild intimacy.
  • Identify vulnerabilities in your relationship and begin to work on them.
  • Discuss what faithfulness and commitment means to you. Just because a relationship is not sexual does not mean you are not having an emotional affair.
  • Understand that this is a very difficult process and you may need professional help to work through your issues.

Eric was able to take a potentially harmful situation and turn it into one that fostered more open communication and trust in his marriage. The window of openness and the sharing of uncomfortable situations actually builds a marriage up instead of tearing it down.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

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