So you want your kiddos to grow up in a close family? Just like anything else – a successful career, a fulfilling marriage, a healthy lifestyle – creating a tight-knit family takes intention, time, and effort.
When starting a family, many of us want our babies to be raised with open communication, fun traditions, deep-rooted faith, and a sense of belonging. I know I want my child (and any future children) to always know she can depend on us for advice, encouragement, safety, comfort, and unconditional love.
But how exactly do we instill this element of closeness within the walls of our home?
Bonding doesn’t just happen! Children will naturally take the lead of their parents when it comes to quality time, family activities, and interaction with others.
These simple practices are easy to start and customize to fit into your family. Try incorporating one or two at a time into everyday life and intentionally developing them into habits.
…and be sure to print the free downloads to take to the dinner table tonight!
How to Create a Tight-Knit Family –
1. Treat them like your people.
You’ve heard the family unit is the strongest building block of society, right? Make sure your family treats each other as if they are one another’s inner circle, the first ones to defend, and their source of comfort.
Talk about one another: If you’re wondering what kind of day they’re having, say it out loud. Call and find out.
Let your children hear you speak kindly and caring about your spouse. They will pick up on how important he is.
Keep pictures of each other and pray openly for their needs.
Teach them to think of each other’s feelings above their own by asking, “How will ____ feel about this?” or “How would you feel if you were in _____ shoes?”
Emphasize the value of your family by speaking to and about one another respectfully, by defending and praising each other publicly, and by demonstrating the value system of putting God first, then family second.
Loyalty goes a long way! It’s like building your own little tiny mafia.
2. Set boundaries.
Both with your your children and with extended family and friends.
- Do your children have curfews or screen-time limits? Enforce them.
- Do you have a strict no-sleepover policy? Don’t make exceptions.
- Do you feel strongly about manners or specific behavior? Stick to your guns, every single time.
Children need boundaries to feel safe. They need to know someone has their back and is invested in their security and well-being. You know that old saying you probably heard from your own parents, “I’m doing this because I love you” – it’s actually true!
Even when you’re getting pushed to your limits, take a breath and reset your bearings. You don’t have to answer right away; let them wait for it. You’re the parent – you’re in charge, period. Regroup when you need to, present a united front with your spouse, and stick to your boundaries. Your babies secretly want you to.
Communication with those outside of your immediate family, including grandparents and kids’ friends, is key to upholding boundaries that bring peace to your home.
Determine when and how you’ll have guests and when your kids can go visit; be clear about expectations and don’t assume other households are run like yours. Have the uncomfortable conversations when needed.
3. Start traditions.
Unless you have family traditions you’ve adhered to from growing up, it’s up to you and your husband to implement them for your own family.
- What are things you want your kids to remember?
- What are the moments you want to make special?
- What are the memories you want to make?
Go make them!
Start with something simple like having a picnic on Easter Sunday, going out for breakfast on birthdays, or sharing one-on-one late night popcorn with your older kid. Visit the same lights display every year at Christmastime or share your daily highs and lows around the dinner table at night. Help each kid create a yearly scrapbook page full of what they liked and accomplished that year.
Your tradition could be an annual vacation, road trip games, or a simple weekly family-night-in – no one else allowed.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive and it’s never too late to start!
4. Designate no-matter-what family time.
Speaking of a weekly family-night-in: this is the perfect tradition because it creates the ideal environment for bonding. Wanna keep it simple? Choose a movie to watch, order pizza or takeout, cook a fun dinner together, or just play a favorite game. If you prefer to go out, rotate who chooses the restaurant or activity.
Here are some fun family date ideas to get you started. It’s always better when everyone is present, so have a phones-free rule!
Things will surely come up that your kids will want to attend instead, so decide beforehand what you’ll make exceptions for and what doesn’t take precedence!
5. Show up & support.
Does your crew scatter off to different activities after work and school? When everyone is involved in different things, it’s easy to get stretched thin and just try to make it all work. But think about when you were a kid – you probably sat through every one of your brother’s baseball games or sister’s dance recitals, and they likely did the same for you.
Think about how you’re demonstrating the importance of each life, hobby, and set of interests when the whole family shows up.
This might not be feasible every time, but try to make a point to support one another, be cheerleaders, and point out each kid’s talents and accomplishments in front of the other kids.
They will notice and start learning to see the good in others.
Cultivating a mindset of “if one goes, we all go” weaves your family together for all the little things that make up life.
Just think: more activities mean more time spent together, and more time means more opportunities for making memories.
6. Talk about the tough stuff.
How do you create an atmosphere of communication within your home? You start communicating!
Ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers. Don’t reply with criticism or apply guilt. Let your kids talk freely; don’t constantly correct their grammar or tell them how they *should* feel.
Sure, there are plenty of topics, behaviors, or issues that would be a ton easier to just glaze over and not deal with. But life is full of tough things, and your kids depend on you to help them through.
Little minds and little hearts aren’t always emotionally developed to understand and work through certain concepts or situations (such as discipline, bullying, even the importance of good grades).
Meet older-kid issues head on and with open arms. You’ve been there – be their guide. Show them respect, acceptance, and assurance. Remember that they need you to be involved in their lives, even when they say they don’t.
7. Have a safe word.
For younger kids, this can be a recognizable, but uncommonly used word, that is only known by your immediate family (not grandparents, friends, or cousins). The great thing about designating a safe word within your family is that is creates a concept of no-secrets. It allows kids to start conversations with their parents about something, such as inappropriate behavior or potential abuse, they may otherwise not know how to bring up. And if it is used, kids know their parents will listen and keep them safe. The Pragmatic Parent has a great write-up about safe words and how to choose one.
Safe words are excellent tools to use when talking about body safety, unsafe situations, and other tough stuff, which should be recurring conversations with your children. So creating a communication pathway for them solidifies their sense of security, as well as keeps them safe.
With older kids, a safe word can be designated to represent an understanding: that if it’s used, they have an exit plan from sticky situations they may otherwise not know how to get out of. With the use of code words, as they’re often called, parents will come get their kids, no questions asked. ProtectYoungMinds.org is a great resource for safe words and code words to help you start making your plan.
8. Encourage kids to play together.
Does it warm your heart when your kiddos entertain themselves together with make-believe or simple toys?
Cultivate their relationships by encouraging more free play time together.
Limit the number of individual type toys they spend time with (iPads, game consoles, etc.), encourage older kids to read to littler ones, and surprise them sometimes with something they’ve all been wanting that they can enjoy together.
Even teenagers don’t need to be alone in their rooms all the time.
Create a place where they can sit and talk, play cards or games, eat and relax. Make the fun spots in the house the common areas. Use what space you have and make it cozy, welcoming, and comfortable for them to hang out together and/or bring their friends over.
Give them the chance to show off their awesome family!
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9. Go to church together.
There’s something super grounding and solid for kids to know what they’re doing at the same time every Sunday morning. Take your kids to church; don’t just send them with friends.
Nothing is more powerful than the example set by a parent and whether or not they want to admit it, your kiddos look up to you!
I’ll be the first to admit that we got out of the habit of attending church regularly after my daughter was born. I let myself use all the excuses and all the reasons in the world (it’s so hard with a little baby; we had a late night; wouldn’t it be nice to just sleep in?), but I wish so badly we hadn’t!
My whole life I’ve dreamt of a family that was involved in our church, had discussions about the sermon on the way home from lunch, and didn’t struggle to get up out of bed to attend every Sunday morning! So, in taking my own advice.. If you want to be, then be!
One of the best ways to build stability within your home is doing this one simple thing, every week, without question.
And I would argue that being the leader that guides your little ones to know Christ is our utmost responsibility as parents.
10. Determine your family identity.
Sound daunting? You can do it! You’ve probably already done it, but just haven’t put it into words yet.
Start by pitching in to answer these questions (download the printable below for the full list!):
- Aside from school and work, what are your priorities? (character, prayer, learning new skills, visiting family, exercise, gaining new experiences, healthy eating)
- What are your must-haves, your no-compromises, pet-peeves or hot buttons? (name-calling, manners, cleanliness, etc.)
- What are your values, habits, rituals, and traditions?
- …Download the full list below
Thinking about your values, interests, and goals can help you identify your family culture. After that, make it official with a Family Mission Statement!
Don’t worry, I made these to help you. (Make it a family game #FTW)
You got this, Mama! It’s never too late to start bringing your family together in simple, but effective ways like these.
I’d love to hear how you implemented these practices into your family.
Please leave a comment below!
by grace & grit,