The Signal

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Eight tips to help your family keep in touch


By J.R. Williams

Make no mistake: Modern families are hurried and harried.

When we manage to keep up, sometimes we succeed by managing everyone else’s schedule, and our conversations are dominated by the mechanics of getting through the day. What time should I pick her up? Will we be on time? Does he have everything he needs?

Keeping in touch with family is like everything else: It takes a plan and practice. With those two things, anyone — even a big, chaotic family — can master anything. With that in mind, here are 8 tips to help keep your family connected.

1. Our first tip needs no introduction.

On the FamilySignal blog, under a headline that says “tips for families to keep in touch,” No. 1 is to use FamilySignal. This is what we do. There’s no better modern tool for giving parents peace of mind, for empowering children and caregivers and for providing quality, contextual information about what your clan is doing right this minute. Discover what FamilySignal can do for your family here, and download the best phone locator app for iPhone free.

Shameless plugs take practice, too. Did I rush it? It felt like I rushed it.

2. Don’t just commit to the calendar, share it.

That’s to say there are about a hundred different electronic ways to manage a calendar. A shared iCal. A shared Google calendar. Plenty of calendar-specific options on the App Store.

A local real estate agent’s freebie stuck to the fridge.

None of them will work unless you have buy-in from the troupe. A simple conversation to say, “here’s where we keep track of our events and obligations. If you have something, put it here.” Try different options and see what’s best for your family.

Don’t start with the fridge?

3. Parts of a whole.

What we’re really talking about here is proper family communication. From the American Psychological Association, a couple of good tips in a list of the best ways for families to communicate: “Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.”

4. When they talk, listen like you mean it.

From the same piece: “Ask your children what they may want or need from you in a conversation, such as advice, simply listening, help in dealing with feelings or help solving a problem.”

It’s not enough to be face to face. See active listening.

5. The right — and wrong — way to take a call.

Remember answering machines with microcassettes? Back when the phone rang, and we jumped to answer it because you didn’t know who it was and caller ID was expensive? Now, when we get a call, it’s almost the default behavior to ignore it and call when it’s more convenient for us. Some people even consider it impolite to call without scheduling first.

That doesn’t fly in the family. When Mom or Dad or brother or sister calls, answer.

6. Out of your corners, but respecting space.

This one is going to take some finesse, particularly with teenagers, but the goal is to prevent everyone from retreating to their parts of the house in the evening.

Many families accomplish this by insisting on dinner together, which is as tried and true of a family rule as any.

We all need our privacy, and some personalities thrive on time alone. But everyone, parents included, should share family space with the family, and resist what may be a temptation to isolate. The result is a more social group.

7. Every voice matters.

To trust and be trusted, solve problems together. Nobody likes to be blindsided with a big change, particularly when it’s about them alone. Although parents, of course, are the ultimate authorities, that doesn’t mean a child shouldn’t have input on their circumstance. When the issue is presented as a conversation rather than an order, everyone feels that their views are being respected, and things will go more smoothly. As a parent and as people, a small compromise can go a long way.

8. Friends are family.

Lastly, to keep children invested, the home should be open to everyone, friends included. When we actively seek to bring others in our home, particularly friends of our children, our own families become closer because company is a shared experience.

J.R. Williams

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