Kids & Company Blog

The Importance of Family

I am the oldest of three children. Growing up, I was lucky to be constantly surrounded by family. I spent my summers at the cottage with my cousins and had dinner at the table with my family almost every night of my childhood. With Family Day coming up this weekend, you might find yourself reflecting on the things that made your childhood special and the things you want to instill in your family if you have children of your own.

Here are some ideas that I’ve come to know are important to the foundation of our family.

Mealtime together

This has always been an important way for my family to engage regularly, connect and share highlights from our days, both good and bad. We like having the table be a phone-free zone, providing a chance to disconnect from anything else going on in your day and check in with each other. Mealtimes might not be possible for your family and there are lots of ways to have regular check-in times.

FFA’s (Forced Family Activities)

This was a cheeky term that my parents enforced on my sister and I when we started to push back on wanting to go on outings with them. Our parents had an “FFA” each month that we did together. It was planned in advance in order to set expectations and almost always ended with a meal out to make it more worth our while!! Looking back on this now, FFA’s were always a good use of our time and even though it’s less ‘forced’ as we get older, these activities continue to happen and bring us together today.

Divide and conquer when necessary

As parents, you may not be able to do everything together! There are lots of sports game, play dates, outings, dinners and trips. Instead of putting strain on your work or personal life, learn to divide and conquer! Let one parent handle one outing, then another parent handles the next. Growing up with a brother with autism (read more about that here), my sister and I did not go out to eat or on a trip with both of our parents together until we were in high school! From a child’s perspective, all I remember is how much both of my parents cared about me and made time for me in one way or another, not whether we were always together! This approach can also be helpful for single or separated parents.

Quality time with grandparents

If your children are lucky enough to have their grandparents in their life, allowing that relationship to blossom inside and outside of your presence can be a gift. This allows them to bond and connect on a deeper level. Spending quality time alone with my grandparents at our cottage each summer fostered a strong friendship that is still present today. Connections with loving adults outside of my parents has given me perspective, skills and support I never would’ve had otherwise.

Downtime together

This may sound obvious, but in this day and age it is very common for people to be in each other’s presence without really spending time together!! Getting 15 minutes of my parent’s full attention was likely never easily provided with their busy lives, but as a child it meant so much. Reading books, building forts, playing with Lego and baking are some of my favourite childhood memories with my parents!

Communication

Depending on the age of your child, you may have gotten to the stage where every time you ask a question they say no or do not respond. It is important to respect their independence and privacy, while still finding ways to get in touch with their feelings and needs. Nightly family dinners, journaling to each other, one-on-one activities and trying to take a few extra minutes can help with this and set a foundation for communication you both can count on.

Acceptance

My parents have talked before about the challenges of watching children grow and make decisions that they wouldn’t make. Within reason, it is important to accept your child’s path despite their mistakes or shortcomings. Something my mom did with us that stuck with me through to adulthood was our bedtime routine. I don’t mean a bathing, putting on PJs or brushing our teeth routine – but something else we did right before we went to bed! We called it “rocks” because as babies it was done while physically rocking us to sleep. It started with the Barney theme song (all the rage back then) followed by counting to ten in both English and French (this allowed my sister and I to gain these skills way before our peers). However, the most important part of “rocks” was at the very end. Right before we went to bed, every night for 12 years, my mom would say “I’ll love you forever no matter what.” As a child, this does not carry a ton of weight, but it is something that I remembered and shaped me as I grew into an adult. Having confidence that a parent loves you unconditionally is instrumental as you grow and navigate into adulthood. Find your own “rocks” and ways to instill in your child that you will be with them through it all.

I’m inspired by my own parents and all the others I see doing their very best each day with their families. Take some time this Family Day weekend to celebrate the ways you have prioritized your own family together – and invite grandparents too if they are in town!

Christie is the Marketing and Events Manager at Kids & Company’s head office. She is one of three children and was born and raised in Toronto. Christie enjoys spending weekends with her family at their cottage and is looking forward to getting married there in July! Connect with her at cwhite@kidsandcompany.com