We’ve seen over the last few weeks how living alone can be difficult. It is seldom, however, that we think of someone who lives with a family as being alone, yet today people can be very alone although surrounded by many loved ones. In this type of situation the day-to-day distractions of busy lifestyles can divert the family unit from really maintaining the social interface and connection so needed by humans who are truly meant to live as part of a social unit.
Sadly, this kind of loneliness within a family household is quite common and real. We ignore it and, over time, the disconnection exacerbates itself and becomes a major family problem. In this, our last discussion of loneliness, I will try to provide some tips to help preclude this situation so that we might reinstate the joy of family living that is meant to be.
So what do I mean by a family which lives under the same roof being disconnected? Well, here are just a few examples. In the past the extended family often made things cohesive, but today with the nuclear family we have lost the sense of interconnectedness of family which the large extended family brought. Both parents working is another issue, with many children today spending extended periods of time without proper parental guidance and oversight. Often their family connections become secondary to their friends and associations from school while the parents become more and more absorbed with their work. This also impacts the closeness of the two parents, driving them apart as well. And finally, the interjection of technology with cell and I-phones, computers and all of their social media components, and even television, constantly pulls us away from spending time with each other.
Perhaps answering a few questions can help us to determine if we have a family issue of this type and, if so, what we can do to undo the damage and strengthen our relationships. I’ve provided some suggestions which might help us get started but each family unit is unique and therefore has its own special needs, so these questions and answers are just a point from which to start. Let’s give it a try.
Does your family have regular group meals where you share the events that are going on in your lives? Family meals are an important way to gather together, providing a pleasant place to communicate with one another regularly. It is easy to get out of the habit with busy and varied schedules, but when a family eats together they share a quality time to spend in fellowship in a relaxed manner. It’s a good time to discuss school, work, fun things and current events as well. A family that routinely shares a daily meal will be more likely to truly know one another and be sharing and loving.
Do you allow your life to be driven by the cell phone? Everyone these days seems to have a cell phone and, in many cases, this includes all members of the family regardless of the age. It can be quite helpful to have certain periods when the cell phones are turned off, such as the dinner hour and homework period as well as at special family gatherings or events. This is helpful in focusing the family on what is important, such as conversing with one another or focusing on school work. Too often we find family members cutting others off to answer that important phone call which often really isn’t very important, at least not when it forms a barrier to good family relations as well as general good manners. Set up a plan and see how it works.
Even when you share time together, is it often confined to watching television with limited conversation? Nobody can question that the television can be quite entertaining and a limited amount of viewing, particularly if it is screened for content, is reasonable. The problem is that it can be habit forming with the result growing to endless hours of watching the medium. Television is a passive learning tool which means most is forgotten and it can be a detriment to good communications within the family. To combat this, try watching a special movie and then discussing it during commercials and after the show ends. And find good family friendly shows to watch that are of benefit to all, not the psychobabble of mindless sitcoms which really aren’t funny at all and are forgotten as soon as they are done.
Do you worship together and share your religious convictions and moral code? Putting a focus on God or, if you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, another higher authority which teaches good morals and good living. Reflect on this with the family and reinforce it in your life. As your children see your example they will want to mimic you. Regardless of what you think you know about them, they do want to emulate you and be proud of you. That is a very strong factor working in your favor.
Do you talk with your children about school and review their work? Take time to review homework with each child and discuss their day. Try to positively reinforce their experience and work with them jointly to solve issues that are troubling them. Again, they want your involvement and it pays big dividends as they develop a high degree of respect for you.
What do you know about their friends? Get to know their friends by first name and allow them to visit in your home. Any problems you have with their friends need to be discussed privately with your children and monitored. If handled delicately, you might even turn what you think is a problem into a great asset. This can often happen through the positive influence that your child can offer as well as the positive image that your family creates in that child’s mind. Perhaps he or she is from a family filled with strife or a broken home and your influence can be quite rewarding.
What do they know about your earlier life and departed family as well as your job and how you spend your day? Your children want to know what you do and they want to encourage you in your business life. After all, parents are their lifeline and if they feel safe and secure they do better. But they also need to understand the trials and tribulations they will face in the adult working world as it will help them prepare for their future. You don’t need to share all of the “gritty” details but share your experiences with them.
Are you and your spouse so wrapped up in the children that you really don’t even know each other anymore? Last, but certainly not least, it is important for the parents, husband and wife, to nurture their relationship as a couple and not just as a family. Schedule “date night” periodically or otherwise make sure that you get quality time together away from the kids. If you have friends in a similar situation, you might consider trade off weekends which will afford you to get a short but private time on a weekend trip without the kids. It will recharge your batteries, reinforce your love for each other and the kids will probably enjoy the short break themselves.
These are just a few ideas and there are limitless possibilities for more, but the point is to focus on your family situation, identify issues found and develop a plan of attack to turn a negative into a positive. If you do this, you will find your internal family relationships will be a joy instead of a chore and, as you get older, the empty nest syndrome won’t be nearly as lonely. A good and vibrant relationship now will build a lasting relationship later which you will look forward to.
I hope this has been helpful and I wish you all luck in this endeavor. Until next time, God bless you all.
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