Building Family Bonds that Matter


Our little (big) family is crazy. There is always noise and motion and lots of mischief happening in our home. Some days I feel like all I do is play referee to professional wrestlers, but one of the comments I get the most from outsiders is that they are impressed with how loving our kids are. We owe that in large part to their natural-born sweet natures, but I’d like to think our parenting had a little bit to do with it too. We have learned that we have to be intentional in creating habits that give us and our children opportunities to deepen and strengthen our relationships with one another.

I wanted to share some strategies we have found that help make our relationships close with a bunch of kids:

1. We’ve established the importance of the role of big siblings early with each new addition.

From the beginning, we involve the older kids as much as possible in the planning and arrival of a new baby. We let them help paint the nursery, choose toys for the baby, and talk a lot about how special it is to be the older sibling. They take a lot of pride in the title and responsibility. One special moment we were able to create with our fourth (and last) was to let them help give their new baby a bath in the hospital. With help from the nurse, my boys all took turns soaping her up and brushing her hair. It is a precious memory and an action that helped the reality of a new sibling really sink in for them.

2. We ask open-ended questions on purpose (bonus points if you do this inside a blanket fort, according to my kids).

We ask a question and give each one the floor to answer. Repeat. Kids love to talk about themselves and I love to get insight into how they perceive life. We ask about their favorite things, goals, best memories from trips, school, etc.

3. Along the same lines, I love to have the kids give compliments to one another.

I go one by one and everyone takes a turn saying something they like about each of their siblings and something they think is special about them. This is especially helpful on days where there has been a lot of fussing and arguing. Warning: this activity usually makes me cry.

4. Playing board games.

This is a really good way to have some quality time with each other without spending money or even getting off the couch. They also really love movie nights where Mom and Dad actually watch the movie with them instead of just playing on our phones next to them (like I’m usually guilty of doing) while they watch a movie. We typically pick something they’ve never seen, pop some popcorn and snuggle up under my giant fleece blanket.

5. Establishing daily traditions makes our schedule run more smoothly and it also makes children feel really safe.

Daily traditions don’t have to be anything elaborate. In our house, one tradition is singing “You Are my Sunshine” and taking prayer requests from each child before bed. This is built into our day no matter what and gives us a chance to slow down for just a minute to listen to the hearts of our kids. Hearing Mom or Dad repeat out loud their prayer request lessens the pressure for them to handle their stresses alone too.

6. Recently, I let my oldest stay up a little later than the others and it was the sweetest time. He talked my head off and I loved it.

Sometimes the older children get the raw end of the deal because they have to accommodate the tantrums and destructive hands of younger siblings. Sometimes a fella just needs to build Legos in peace. I will be incorporating this time regularly from now on, even if it is only 30-45 minutes a week.

7. We go on dates with our kids.

Dates aren’t dependent on behavior in our house because sometimes they need it the most when they “deserve” it the least. In a big family it is important to make a point to spend one-on-one time with each child.

8. I read once that children need eight moments of affection each day.

With four kids, that means I’m always touching someone. 😂 I don’t know if that is based on actual science, but I feel like that is always in the back of my mind and give as many forehead kisses and hugs as they allow.

9. We love food around here.

We just started a new thing where occasionally each person picks one food they really love and we incorporate it into one big, random meal. This is fun because everyone gets what they want and it gives us a chance to say yes. I get to be a cool mom for a minute.

10. We focus on experiences over stuff.

You can give each child the same exact toy and they will still find a way to squabble over it. You can’t do that with experiences! I want to fill their memories with adventures and inspire in them life-long curiosity. I hope when they’re all grown up, they remember the day trips and vacations and exploring the woods with their siblings above all. 

Strong families don’t happen by accident. Being intentional makes a big difference. What are some ways you invest in your family’s relationships?