When Stephen Covey wrote his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” his second habit was “Begin with the End in View.” That applies to the first blog post in this 5-part series, being Together, or Togetherness. If our GOAL is togetherness we need to visualise more than simply physical proximity, which we can accomplish silently while driving to the store together in the car. Emotional closeness, mutual respect and support, openness to reason together; these and more contribute to a deeper and more broad togetherness experience.
But that type of togetherness must be established on the second T we described: Trust. Trust is the GROUNDWORK that allows us to strive towards greater togetherness in the first place. Without trust family members will hold each other “at arm’s length”, hesitant to really engage on any meaningful level, not wanting to expose themselves to something that might be misunderstood or devalued. Once there is a commitment to trust, and that can be a decision as well as an emotion, we can move towards togetherness.
Even when there is a goal of togetherness and a commitment to trust there must be a GATEWAY to reach the destination, and that we dealt with in part 3: Talk. Community begins with communication in a healthy way, with a sense of safety, open minds and hearts, respect and positive interaction.
So Now We Come to the 4th T of Family Connectedness, and That is Time
Time is a tricky topic today especially for parents of older kids. It’s tricky for a number of reasons:
- Our busy lives and schedules
- The financial pressures many families face today
- The sense that our kids want to spend little to no time with us as they get older
Recently a family that came to the pilot of Revive’s Family Camp was surprised by the desire their kids (ages 17 to 22) had to spend time with them. Even their college graduate expressed a sadness that now that the family was working on the family dynamics she regretted she was heading off to a full time job in another city because she desired time with the entire family.
Like me when I began my journey as a parent, this father saw his main source of showing love as providing and because of his provision his kids’ responsibility was to achieve and obey. As the week unfolded the parents heard their kids’ hearts for the first time and their deep desire to spend time with them and the family if issues could get resolved. Throughout the week their desire for Dad’s time became crystal clear as did the associated hurt from the kids’ sense that work and money was far more important to their Dad than they were.
Coming into the week the parents felt that their kids avoided spending time with them and they were right. This stemmed from the lack of a two way resolution process in the family that should have had both sides being heard and understood leading to emotional resolution, forgiveness and reconnection. In its absence, unaddressed frustration and hurt had damaged the emotional connection in the family and caused the kids to avoid their parents in spite of their deep desire to be close and spend time with them. In fact their desire for time was heightened by the distance that had grown between everyone in the house. The kids’ desire was so strong to spend time with their Dad that they challenged him to work less, decreasing the family’s income to spend time together this summer. Dad responded and cut back on his work schedule, which sent a powerful message of love to his kids.
The Desire of Today’s kids
Today post-modern kids desire community, authenticity and fairness meaning they value relationships and family far more than previous generations. This is the reason they are more easily hurt in their families today because relationships matter so much more to them. They would rather be close, enjoy each other, have deep conversations than have more things or activities to do that cost money.
More time and deeper conversations are significant if we desire to stay connected to this new generation of kids that as parents we are raising today.
We need to consider re-prioritizing our lives according to what really matters to our kids and us as parents. We need to seek to understand our kids’ deeper desires related to their relationships with us and within our family. Then examine our priorities in light of these desires.
To get to this place with our kids it may mean resolving some past hurts that they have not previously shared. Listening to their hurts and issues demonstrates that they will be heard as opposed to our tendency to focus on our issues with them. Our willingness to hear what they have been harboring in their hearts will begin to meet their need and desire for authenticity and fairness.
The simple fact that kids value relationships more than things and activities today can help parents re-prioritize and work less in order to spend more time with their kids. When time combines with emotional transparency, covered in part five of this blog series, it builds the sense of togetherness that sits at the top of the desire and needs list for today’s kids.
Time in God’s Family
It’s interesting to note that at least two times in the Gospels it says that early in the morning Jesus went out to a solitary place to pray, spending time with the Father, and at least once all night. That time was intentional, purposeful and habitual. From time to time he pulled his disciples aside to spend time with them away from the crowds. Certainly as they walked along the dusty roads of Israel they talked together, and undoubtedly about more than just the lessons he wanted them to learn. Can you imagine the depth of the relationship they must have developed? While Talk is the gateway to togetherness, Time brings GROWTH in that relationship. Just as a seed planted in the ground takes time to mature, so full and meaningful family togetherness takes intentional and purposeful time together.
In part five of the blog series the Five “Ts” of Family we will discuss the final “T” for Transparency. This will help you understand the type of talk or discussions they are looking for in their families and with their parents.
If this blog post spoke to you, find more about connecting with your family in the Revive Family free online course.