The other night while my father and I were in the middle of a serious discussion at the dining table, my phone, as usual, kept beeping. Tweets were flowing in, Facebook tagging was in full action and I couldn’t help joining the digital discussion, when suddenly my father got up and left. His retirement made me realise my insolence and I ran after him to apologise.
He cheered up after briefly scolding me and dismissed the matter, but the episode made me realise the significance of spending quality time with one’s family members; for they are not going to be with us always.
Since then, I’m making an effort to spend more time with my family members, so that together we can build stronger family bonds. Here are a few things I’ve learnt so far; you, too, can experiment with these to cultivate happier and more satisfying family relationships.
These days iPhones, MacBooks, iPad, etc. usually accompany us everywhere we go — be it shopping, an excursion trip or a family function — and they consume so much of our time that we feel quite exhausted when it comes to interacting with our loved ones. In other words, the virtual world has a high potential to take a serious toll on our relationships. The best way to curb this problem is to switch your devices for at least an hour or two every day. Instead of sending messages on Whatsapp or Skype to your cousins, go visit them if they live in the same city as you do.
Take time out to talk to that elderly lady in your neighbourhood you see every day, but are too busy with your phone to speak to. Take your mother out for a walk instead of tagging her on health tips on Facebook.
It’s important to disconnect digitally to connect in the real world. Relationships need your undivided attention, affection and care to flourish and strengthen. Associations fostered with love along with your valuable presence will always go a long way in life.
It is explicable that many families don’t get time to eat their breakfasts and lunches together. Everyone has a different lifestyle and work schedule to maintain, but dinners and weekends present a perfect opportunity for everyone to assemble for an enjoyable, light-hearted meal together, which is in fact quite meaningful.
Dinners are an ideal time to share your achievements, highlights of the day and appreciate each others’ hard work. Similarly, Sunday brunches or early morning breakfasts could be the best time to meet your extended family and hear their stories. These seemingly small moments will bring you closer as a family, augment mutual respect as well as instil fundamental family values amongst the younger generation. But while you’re at it, don’t forget to turn off your smart gadgets.
Plan an activity
Unfortunately, there aren’t many safe spots left in the metropolitan cities where a family can go to enjoy a pleasurable excursion, apart from some eateries and shopping malls. Therefore, think of some creative, fun-filled activities that all your family members — elderly as well as the young ones — can relish at home. For example, organise a ‘carom’ night; this has been a very popular board game since ages, and your parents / grandparents would certainly love to join you in for a match or two. The younger generation can take pleasure in a lively game of hopscotch, a round of dominoes or the ever-green ‘ludo’ game. Alternatively, you can organise a story-telling session at home, where your grandparents can share a personal anecdote from their childhood / youth with all the adults and children. Such exercises will help you get to know and work with each other better and will show the young ones that a family operates as unit, setting an example for them to follow.
Though Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, birthdays and anniversaries might seem like extravagance to some, they are in essence beautiful gestures that bring people closer. A little girl wishing her daddy on Fathers’ Day makes a man feel loved and wanted, increasing his sense of responsibility towards his children.
Similarly, nothing would rejoice an elderly couple more than having their grown-up children celebrate their wedding anniversary. The sense of belonging and being cared for is what makes the real difference. Commemorating the good times and supporting each other during bad times is what solidifies relationships. Make time to celebrate with your family today and see the glow on their faces!
This is the most important thing in every relationship, and one that is often overlooked. It is understandable that due to the pressures of today’s fast-paced corporate world it’s not possible for a working professional to spend long leisurely hours with their family, but try to be there — emotionally as well as mentally — as much as you can.
If you’re not talking to your parents enough, then even your financial support wouldn’t matter much. Talk to your teenage daughter and hear her naive, adolescent frustrations. Talk to your father, he’s growing older and wants you to sit with him for an hour or two. Talk to your spouse, they might have been missing you all day.
Remember that your time is the best gift you can give to your loved ones. Without it, no relationship can flourish.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine May 1st, 2016