This month’s blog series has been all about seizing the day and why it’s important to make lasting memories with our significant others, our children and our friends. However, let’s not forget about other relationships in our lives: Our parents and siblings. These relationships are often quite unique and complicated and can also come with their fair share of issues such as family tensions, distance and concern around aging parents. Because they are our ‘family’, we don’t often consider that these relationships still need careful attention to keep them strong, especially when we have busy careers and/or families of our own. Let’s look at some fresh new ideas to better connect or even improve our relationships with our moms, dads, brothers and/or sisters.
Connecting & caring
Some of us are fortunate enough to have relationships with our family that are much like a friendship; with a sense of fun and adventure. I consider myself particularly lucky in that my parents and siblings enjoy many of the same outdoor adventures that I do, so it’s not a chore when we get together. Instead, we usually plan times together around activities and adventures that we would all love to do anyway, so it’s a natural fit to do these together. Others may have very helping relationships, but while family members are there for you in times of need, the relationships may not feel as close as you’d like. Whatever your wishes are for a stronger bond, it all starts with getting and staying connected, beyond the annual visits or phone calls on holidays or birthdays. When we regularly call, visit and plan get-togethers or vacations, the relationships won’t get stagnant or fall off the radar, especially when we inject more fun and authenticity into them. Go ahead and reach out, be your true self, and potentially see a new side of your family while they get to see a new side of you. Letting go of past issues and starting fresh is also a great way to forge stronger bonds and move the relationship forward.
Handling hectic holidays
Most families get together when there is an occasion such as a holiday, birthday, anniversary or graduation. While definitely important, these special occasions can be hectic and quality time can be elusive. Why not work together to plan a better way to make these events less stressful and more enjoyable? Start earlier, stay later, play some games, extend the meal time to include happy memories and conversations, and don’t forget to share food preparation and dishes so that no one misses out on fun.
Making new traditions
Do you ever look back on photos of family birthdays or holidays and you can’t tell the difference between one year and the next? That’s a sign that it’s time to switch things up. If it’s always the same house, people, decorations and food, that’s definitely not helping to make new memories. Start new traditions and turn the “usual routine” into something everyone will remember. Some of the best family memories stem from times when the unexpected happened!
Dealing with aging parents
Anyone with elderly parents in need of care knows how stressful it can be – on everyone. Gratefully, my parents are both in relatively good health still but not too many years ago my extended family went through many of the challenges associated with caring for my grandparents in their final years of life. Family dynamics can change overnight, and these new roles can be demanding. So, how do we work on making the most of this situation? It starts with ensuring that the care is divided up between siblings however possible, and that there is a ‘care plan’ in place. There are organizations who can help with this, and as our population ages, these services are thankfully improving. As children of aging parents, it’s more important than ever to share wonderful moments together. Here are some things to do with our parents to lift the spirits and make the most of our time together:
- Get more fresh air. If your parent(s) don’t drive or get out much, they’re likely feeling cooped up. Instead of just visiting indoors all the time, plan to get outdoors as much as is comfortable! Picnics, coffee at the park, a stroll down the block or watching a sunset together are memorable and offer healthy change of scene.
- Share stories. Keep your family history alive and talk about the past and their Write it all down and share it with your own kids to keep it going for future generations.
- Tap into their knowledge. Our parents know a thing or two, so don’t forget to get that secret family recipe, tricks of the trade, career or parenting advice – it’s guaranteed you’ll cheer them up too by asking. Before my grandparents passed away, my father had memoir books made to preserve his parents’ stories and memories. It was a great way for them to recall the events of their lives and they enjoyed the process.
- Let them know you care. Even if you aren’t able to help with all the things they need help with, stay connected daily or weekly and let them know you are committed to them.
As we wind up this series on making new memories with the special people in our lives, there are a few recurring themes. One is that in order to move relationships forward, we need to infuse our relationships with more fun and adventure. The second is that we have to try new things and get out of the same old routine. Finally, we have to really commit; having a good relationship takes effort, but frankly, it’s well worth it. There are a lot of amazing people in our lives with whom we can share wonderful memories with, so go ahead and seize the day while you enjoy those special moments. What ideas mentioned are things you’re interested in trying out or working on? Share in the comments below.
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” – Jane Howard