This is a compensated review from BlogHer and Sprint
Our family situation is a little unusual. We’re a typical family: mom, dad, teenage boy, two young girls. But my teenage stepson lives in Colorado with his mom during the school year, and with us during vacations. Staying connected with him doesn’t happen by accident.
Here are my top ten strategies for keeping us all close.
- Turn everything off. Just put down the Internet and walk away slowly. Shut off your cell phone while you’re at it, and the TV. Pay attention to the people in the room with you: the ones who are there so reliably they start to seem like part of the furniture.
- OK, now turn it all back on. Facebook, IM, Skype, and Twitter don’t have to be distractions from staying connected; they can also be tools. I see my stepson update his Facebook status in the middle of the day and I pause, laugh and think of him. My mom reads my mommyblog to get her daily fix of grandkids.
- Set time aside. It’s easy to get so busy with the business of living that we forget to stop and connect with the people we love. My husband and I have a weekly date night where we get to just be together. For my kids, I try to give each of them 20 minutes a day of my undivided attention for whatever they want – playing in their dollhouse, reading a book together or just talking about the day.
- Eat together. Strange but true: family dinner counts. Every evening, I find myself sitting around the kitchen table with a fussy toddler, a whiny five-year-old and an exhausted spouse and I think, ‘WHY DO WE DO THIS?’ We do it because it beats the alternative. And because in my imagination, the kids will grow into table manners, or at least stop mushing food in each other’s hair.
- Have a routine. Eating together is one important touchstone in having a stable domestic routine. Keeping a steady rhythm for meals, sleep and social time helps everyone get enough time together.
- Get away from each other. Spending some time alone, or away from family life, helps me stay connected to my husband and kids because I get to appreciate them more when I come home. This is especially important for me as a stay-at-home mom.
- Listen. Sometimes, kids talk about incredibly boring crap. Listen anyway. The blow-by-blow of your daughter’s last gymnastics class? The recitation of rules for a complex video game you are never going to play? These are the things they’re interested in, and they want to share it with you.
- Do Stuff Together. A companion piece to listening is doing. My stepson loves roleplaying games, so when he’s visiting, I break out my dusty old D&D books and run a game for him. I’m not that interested in swords and sorcerers these days, but I am lucky enough to have a teenager who still thinks I’m cool enough to hang out with.
- Help. People love helping hands. Offer to do a chore together, or help your teenager with a homework project. Even if they don’t normally seek out your company, they’re likely to appreciate the offer.
- Travel. Since our family is pretty far flung, we rely on a lot of travel to keep our connections strong. Frequent flier miles are our friend. We buy probably ten plane tickets a year. Mostly they’re for my stepson to make his trips from Colorado during school breaks, but we also travel once a year to visit grandparents in Arizona and every two years we make a summer trip to Argentina.
To check out other BlogHer Top 10 lists for staying connected, visit the main site. You have 9 chances to win $200 at the BlogHer.com special offers page. For yet more information, Check out the Family Connections Group at BlogHer.
To enter, leave me a comment below and tell me What are your best tips for keeping your family connected in the New Year? - or you may leave a link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. The contest will begin at 1/13/2010` and will end 2/9/2010. Make sure that the e-mail address you leave is correct.
* No duplicate comments.
* You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
* You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
* This giveaway is open to US-residents, aged 18 and older
* Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail.
* You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
* Please see the official rules here: Official rules