I love spending time with our children. They are good kids and we are very proud of them. Our son is 13 and his sister is 12 and we, as our friends often say, are the perfect little family. The problem is that I feel as if our time together, although it’s always fun, lacks substance. I feel as if we are either working (chores etc) or playing (we are a very active group and love to be outdoors together) but it kind of seems like we stop there. I want our kids to know us better but aren’t really sure how to do that. They don’t seem to want to look at picture albums and as three out of four of their grandparents are no longer alive, they don’t even get to hear what we (my husband and I) were like as kids.
I’m looking for some advice about how to take our family to the next level.
I’ll be watching for your reply and thanks for the column – we love it!
Signed- Where the Substance?
Thanks so much! I was pleased to read you want to take the family to the next level, and that you are already both spending time together and enjoying it; great place to bounce off. I often have to start at the beginning with many of my clients, explaining that doing things together builds communication. As a rule, one of the many rewards of doing activities together, is that conversations often take root by virtue of being together. What I did notice in your letter though, is that you said you were sorry that the grandparents weren’t able to share what you and your husband were like as kids. There is no reason why YOU can’t do that. You guys (as I SO often say) need to start telling stories. Share your history and theirs. Nothing lightens a child’s eyes like hearing what they were like as kids except to learn that their parents were similar. Depth comes with work and although yours is not a difficult task, it is one that requires some focus and a willingness to be open and honest. It’s not only okay for kids to hear that we made mistakes as children, it’s actually a fabulous teaching tool. Want substance? Put it there! That’s right – tell them about your most embarrassing moment and bring your first crush alive again, by sharing how you met. Think about the relationships you cherish most that have the kind of complexity you seek with your children and you’ll find that it’s with someone(or someones) that you really talk to. You don’t need the photos they don’t seem to want to see, but I can almost guarantee you that once you start talking, you’ll probably have to dust off those albums as well. Spending quality time together is the perfect beginning and you’ve got that ‘in the bag’. The rest will start to fall into place sooner than you may think. Have a great week!
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