“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life—to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories. –George Eliot

The wish to seek and have a deep sense of family connection and commitment is universal. Ask people what is most important to them and their first answer is always the same–their family. In healthy families, there is a sense of cohesion or family togetherness. Without it, we feel more like strangers than kin.

What gives families a strong sense of connection?

The answer is very simple although often a challenge. We must spend quality time together, just hanging out, or if separated by geography, spend time talking and listening to one another. We need to know that we can count on each other for the relationship to be close.

Only by making the time to share the details of our daily lives as well as our successes, hardships, dreams and disappointments can we reap the rewards of our intimate bonds. Researchers at Brigham Young University analyzed results from 148 studies from the last century and found that social support not only makes us happier to be alive but also literally adds to our longevity, increasing our survival by 50 percent.

Unfortunately, twenty-first century families are more isolated than ever before. With both parents working more hours than ever and with the demands of work infiltrating family time via computers and cell phones, most everyone we talk to complains about the same thing. There’s just not enough time!

Some Tips for Improving Key #4

Remind yourself in the following week to take the time each day–even if only minutes– to connect with your family members.

Remember to use the precious times you already have to talk and listen rather than remain plugged into cell phones or iPods.

Catch the moments in between–like driving in the car, eating a snack, walking the dog–to share thoughts and feelings with your loved ones.

Create a daily ritual of checking in. Any habit practiced for thirty days can become the new normal.

Schedule talking and listening time in whatever calendar system you use, committing yourself to family time instead of slipping into the habit of watching TV, computer surfing, video gaming or answering one more email.

Family meetings, described in Chapter 9 of our book, (HowsYourFamily.com) are an excellent way to stay connected, have fun, process feelings, practice positive thinking, and make decisions as a family.

If you have discovered other creative ways to connect with family, please let us know.

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Don and Debra MacMannis DrGreene.com contributor

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