Greetings! you deserve quality time with the people you love.
Their undivided attention is worth more than flowers, chocolate or gifts any day of the year. You deserve to feel appreciated, noticed and accepted. Your loved ones deserve the same. But in an age of near constant distractions, I know what a struggle it can be to live in the moment and connect with each other.

I tend to focus on what’s coming next. Living in the moment doesn't always come easy for me. But we can do it. And we can help our loved ones do the same. It can be as simple as changing a routine or making a conscious decision to put down your phone or tablet.

Here are 5 tips to help your family better connect and make the memories that will last a lifetime.
#1 - Put the Phones Away
This is an obvious one, I know. But for many people, it’s also the hardest (for me, too). Smartphones and tablets take attention away from everything else that is going on in front of us. That means you are missing opportunities to connect with your partner, friends or family.

You might not realize it, but focusing on your phone instead of your loved ones could be having a negative impact on your relationships…especially with children.

“Whether you realize it or not, kids feel like they are coming in second to whatever else is on your phone in front of you,” says Liz Last, Family Wellness Coordinator with Family Services’ Parent Connection program.

“Putting phones away during mealtimes and bedtimes, giving children the gift of your time and attention, will help them feel more connected and valued as a family member.”
#2 - Conversation Lacking? Try a New Approach
Starting a conversation with your closest loved ones can be tough. It’s not because you don’t have questions. It’s because you keep getting the same 1-3 word answers out of your partner or child when asking about their day. If this is the case, try doing an activity together.

“Parents who are having trouble communicating with their children may want to try having difficult conversations in the car or going for a walk with their child,” says Last. “Walking or riding side-by-side can seem less intimidating and less confrontational than a face-to-face conversation.”

The same can be true for your partner or friends. If you find the activity is effective, try making it a regular occurrence. It could end up being a memorable part of your life together.
#3 - Start or Change a Routine
This one takes commitment. But, once you have routines in place, you and your loved ones will find more moments in each day to connect with one another.

Make it a priority to eat at least one meal together every day. It doesn’t matter which meal and it doesn’t have to be around a table. Take the time to be together as a family and check in with one another.

Bedtime is another routine that might need refreshing. If you’re a parent with young kids, read a book together or spend a few minutes asking your child questions as they get settled in. This is a time when children are more likely to open up and talk because they’ve had more time to process their day.

“Prioritizing family mealtimes and consistent bedtime routines are great ways to open lines of communication within families,” says Last.

“Routines help families build trust, predictability and stability.”
#4 - Give Praise, Show Affection
If your own parents didn’t show a lot of affection, this tip might be hard or even uncomfortable for you – and that’s okay. You can start slow.

What’s important here is to remember that praise and affection are two of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones.

Make a conscious effort to kiss, hug and cuddle throughout the day – not just as you leave or come home. Tell your loved ones how proud they make you, or what you love most about them. Affection is so much more than saying “I love you.” It’s important to make sure you are showing affection based on how you are feeling in the moment, and not out of habit. Affection between partners is also an important example to set for kids.

“Showing children individual attention and affection is exactly the kind of positive, nurturing encouragement they need to feel loved and supported by their parents,” says Last.
#5 - Write Notes to Each Other
If you and your family are constantly headed in different directions, handwritten notes can connect you even when you’re apart.

If you can’t be home to tuck your child into bed, leave a note telling them how much you wish you were there. If you and your partner work different shifts, leave a note for them to find while they get ready.

Unlike a text message, handwritten notes come across as more thoughtful and caring. 
I hope you can use these tips to connect more deeply to the people you love. You and your family deserve every happy moment you can find together. Go out and make it happen!

And because of your support, our staff are able to teach these tips to struggling families every day. YOU help us bring caregivers closer to the kids in their lives, and bring spouses closer to one another.

Thank you for helping us strengthen families, so we can strengthen our entire community.
Cara Gosse
Vice President, Communications & Development
Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin
P.S. To learn more about our Early Childhood Development programs, click here.