Family Connections & Celebrations
Quick, think of your favorite family tradition … your most eccentric relative … best foods and worst … embarrassing photos … a wild story that’s been passed from grandparents to kids to cousins and beyond ….
Your family is about so much more than genetics. You share a distinctive history, values and a sense of connection that can’t be duplicated. Because familial ties are likely to be more rewarding, complicated and enduring than any others, your life is richer if you can cultivate strong, loving relationships.
Unfortunately, busy schedules, work, school and geography can be obstacles to families spending meaningful time together. It’s too easy to take for granted the people who have always been there for you. Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, author of We Plan, God Laughs, and a popular speaker at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, suggests setting aside time regularly for the ones you love. She emphasizes the value of intergenerational activities that everyone can enjoy.
It’s the little things
“Small things can make a big difference,” Rabbi Hirsch says. “Choose activities that children and adults can both do. Play board games, listen to music, read together, play cards; anything you can do together is good.”
The rabbi points out that it’s never just about the game or activity, since there are other conversations, dynamics and special moments involved. Sharing an activity is a way to expand on relationships.
“My husband and our four small children and I dance in the living room every day for fifteen minutes,” she says. “It’s a wonderful way to enjoy and acknowledge one another.” It’s certainly a ritual that her children will always think of fondly. The rabbi also recommends cooking meals and making things together.
With older kids, she suggests having longer conversations while driving in the car. “You don’t have to look at each other face to face,” she points out, which can make for a more relaxed, less awkward talk, removed from other people and distractions.
Milestones & more
Do you have a favorite photo of you or a sibling all dressed up for a special occasion? Families are often brought together for holidays and key milestones. Relatives take special joy in acknowledging the people they’ve “known forever” as they celebrate achievements, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations and rites of passage. These occasions bring families together throughout a lifetime, and that continuity fosters an invaluable bond.
While the big celebrations are remembered and carefully chronicled in pictures, Rabbi Hirsch reminds us that building relationships is about the mundane things as well. It’s the everyday interaction and thoughtfulness that gives a relationship its value. “Even routine gestures make a big difference, like calling your in-laws once a week.”
Anything you can do to fortify family relationships will bring greater joy. And most families hit some bumps along the way – adolescence, for instance. Rabbi Hirsch says to keep in mind that everything is temporary. “The good times and the bad come with different phases,” she says. “Hang tight, talk it through. You will make it!”