10 Ways to Foster Healthy Relationships & Develop Intimacy,
Without Checking Your Phone for Missed Calls or Text Messages
The scene was bustling with activity around the dinner table. My dear friends, with their 5 late teen to young adult age children, were darting in and out of the kitchen, filling their plates with nachos and otherwise pillaging the refrigerator. My young family, simultaneously, was toddling and scurrying around the table, stealing scraps of food from “Henry” the golden retriever before he could consume them, and otherwise doing their best to stay in the mix – enamored by their older counterparts and the energy they possessed.
It was a Sunday afternoon and we were getting together as families to enjoy one another. As parents we watched, laughed, and managed as best we could. The young men and boys took my young boys to shoot ‘air-soft’, the older girls played with and coddled the baby, and the adults smiled and laughed. It was an amazing day, full hugs, high fives, and conversation; full of life.
The only electronic device used that day was the microwave.
If you haven’t spent a day with your TV off, computer off, game console off, and your phone in your pocket – disregarding your calls, texts and twitter feed – you might have forgotten how much you’re missing. Now I’m not an advocate of an off the grid lifestyle because technology is woven into our lives, particularly for those of us under the age of 25, but I am an advocate of relationships.
In my prior posts I’ve discusses what may be described as an intimacy deficit in this generation – the lack of ability to initiate, build, and maintain meaningful relationships. I don’t think that technology is to blame for this, but it for sure can maintain less than healthy behaviors.
If the prior story I told seems a bit outside the norm for you, or you haven’t done it for a while, try some things to foster increased connection in the way you need it most; face to face, hug to hug, laugh to laugh, tear to tear, and ear to ear (listening) relationships.
Here are some tips to staying connected in today’s world.
1. Have dinner together as a family on a regular basis: Families who eat together have closer, more bonded relationships and better communication. Additionally, studies have repeatedly shown that children from families that ate together were significantly less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking and/or using drugs.
2. Turn off the TV and get active together! Excessive TV watching has been linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, etc. Create family memories by going for a bike ride, taking a hike or going fishing.
3. Special bedtime routine if you are a family with young children– praying, reading a story out loud, all create a sense of security and well being in children, helping them go to sleep quicker and sleep more soundly. These behaviors actually invigorate the brain and release the neurochemical oxytocin that promotes bonding and feelings of well being for both you and your children. TV or video games can’t compete here!
4. Designate once a week/month as family night and play games together as a family– no video games or electronics allowed! Rotate who choses and if the weather is still nice, move the games outside. Although we live in a high-tech world, kids still love old-fashioned favorites such as “hide-and-go-seek”, mother may I”, “capture the flag” and “red light, green light.” A personal favorite is “Simon says,” For some real laughter say, “Simon says touch your left elbow to your right butt cheek.” Not only is it physically impossible but it promotes side busting laughter in all attempting to do it!
5. Attend your place of worship together as a family/participate in religious activities as a family. Parents in families that participate in religious activities are more likely to be reported by their children as showing love and affection to each other. Additionally, parents are more likely to be aware of who their children’s friends and their parents.
6. Set reasonable limits on how many sports and activities your children are involved in. Be sensitive to your families needs and each of your children individually. Some kids like to be busy all the time while others prefer a schedule with more free time for creativity and relaxation.
7. Develop special, unique holiday traditions and memories. It doesn’t have to involve spending a lot of money but with a little creativity, you can create fun and memorable traditions your kids will remember their entire life. Special holiday books you read aloud, holiday trivia, recipes that can be followed together are all awesome ideas.
8. Create limits on technology in the home. A basket in the kitchen for all devices after 9pm, and no lap tops in bedrooms at night not only sets healthy limits but also provides accountability for everyone. (It still amazes me how many parents do not filter the internet in their home and then let their children have a wi-fi device with web access. This includes the computer, IPad or tablet, their phone, most game systems, e.g. Xbox, PlayStation, WII, and their IPod. Not only are they not engaging in healthy relationships while surfing or playing, but there is a high likelihood they are exposing themselves to pornography.)
9. Set the example. As an adult raise the bar for yourself and cultivate healthy boundaries around technology and foster meaningful relationships.
10. Foster relationships with your kids. Ask them about their day, and listen. Take interest in their lives and connect with them. As you communicate their value to you they will learn about how valuable they are. People who value themselves are more likely to pursue relationships and live a fuller meaningful life.
As we left their home that day we drove away full. Full of great memories, great food, and simply feeling loved. Everyone wants that feeling. Today, find a way to be present with someone and have a meaningful conversation….without checking your phone every time it beckons you.