It seems that every family I know, both those with kids and those without, feels overextended and somewhat out of touch with other members of the family. With jobs, school, activities, obligations, hobbies and more it is often hard to find time to connect in meaningful ways. In an age where we somehow feel more connected to people due to social media and technology, I would argue we are actually more disconnected than ever before, even with those who live under the same roof. So, how do we solve this epidemic?
Staying Connected in a Disconnected Age
Well, I don’t have all the answers, but here are a couple thoughts. First, try to plan good-old-fashioned family meals – the sort that don’t include any electronics. Confession, I personally understand that the no electronics part is hard, as it’s a constant challenge in my house.
Second, schedule meaningful activities with other family members – extended and immediate. This could include joint activities, conversation appointments, games that foster connections and so much more. Of course, it could also entail serving together.
Connecting Through Service
I talk often about the benefits of serving, from building self-esteem and lessening depression to meeting new people and developing new skills. Well, serving can also strengthen relationships, create long-lasting memories and foster a great sense of connection. So, why not make service to others a family affair?
I think serving with family members is highly effective at building connections for several reasons:
- Neutral Territory – Because most service activities take place outside of the house, you are given an opportunity to connect in an atmosphere that is clear of baggage, which can do wonders for communication.
- Common Goal – When you’re serving, you are working with others towards achieving a common goal, which can be very powerful in bonding.
- Focus on Others – Since service is focused on helping others, it often leads to sharing oneself in very honest and vulnerable ways, which in turn can lead to deeper connections.
Sharing Experiences = Connecting
I am reminded of an experience I had when I was doing my Thirty Days of Service, which demonstrated to me how quickly serving with a family member can lead to a reconnection. While I loved every aspect of that service initiative, it occupied an enormous amount of my time. I was serving at all different times of the day and night, plus shooting video and writing blogs when not serving. At the same time, my partner Greg, an entertainment executive, was knee deep in his demanding job, which includes a good amount of travel. We were like ships passing in the night many days, and if we were home together, we were generally too exhausted to have our customary chats.
Finally, on Day 22, Greg was able to join me at Operation Gratitude, where we prepared care packages for our military troops. Over the course of that day, we worked side-by-side one another, sharing smiles, laughs and the occasional wink. While we didn’t have some in-depth conversation, we ended that day feeling reconnected to one another, as we had shared a common experience outside of our normal environment that filled us up independently and as a couple.
If you are seeking a better connection with a family member – spouse, partner, parent, child – I encourage you to consider delving into service together. I know from experience just how impactful it can be.