9 ways to reconnect with family
Emotions run high during an argument. We say something we don’t mean. Tragedy strikes and drives families apart. Or life gets busy and we don’t make time to keep our relationships strong. There are lots of reasons that loved ones drift apart, but a few powerful strategies are all it takes to bring them back together. Whether you want to rekindle a romantic relationship or repair estranged family ties, the principles of reconnecting with family members are the same. It’s all about communication, honesty and shared experiences.
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1. Be present
The number one gift you can give your family and significant other isn’t jewelry or electronics – it’s your presence. Being truly present and enjoying every moment with them will create intimacy and bonding like nothing else can. So put away your phones, turn off the TV and be here, now. Feel your emotions deeply, both good and bad. Notice the smells, tastes and sounds you never noticed before. Engage with your children and partner. Giving the gift of presence is one of the best ways to reconnect with family.
2. Listen deeply
When you’re having a conversation, are you really listening? Or are you sitting there thinking of your own response? Most people listen just so that they can talk. Deep listening is an essential part of being present. It’s one of the most important skills you need if you want to learn how to reconnect with your family and succeed in your career. Make eye contact, provide nonverbal feedback and ask questions, rather than giving your own opinions. You might learn something.
3. Let go of expectations
Reconnecting with family members isn’t always easy. There’s that one sister who is always late, and your mother just can’t seem to stop criticizing you. Yes, it is annoying and frustrating – but no family is perfect. Every family has tensions and grievances. Some of your family members may even find you to be the annoying one! Instead of getting angry when your family doesn’t “measure up,” trade your expectations for appreciation and choose to love them the way they are. You’ll have a much more relaxing time together.
Loving our families the way they are can be easier said than done. Sometimes they have hurt us in very real ways. If your family is genuinely toxic or abusive, you don’t have to reconnect. But oftentimes we need to find it within ourselves to embrace forgiveness. Forgiving your family doesn’t mean you excuse their behavior, and you don’t have to accept it in the future. It means you’re willing to let go of the past and find peace. It’s a gift you give yourself, not the other person. And it opens the door to exploring other ways to reconnect with family.
5. Practice empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings, deep in your heart and soul. It goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness, because when you’re able to see things from someone else’s perspective, it is much easier to forgive them. We often have empathy for our friends and even for strangers, but when it comes to how to reconnect with family, we let it fall by the wayside. Practicing empathy can change our entire relationship with our family.
6. Understand human needs
No matter who we are or where we come from, we all have Six Human Needs that drive all of our behavior: certainty, significance, variety, love/connection, growth and contribution. We spend our lives striving to fulfill these needs, often subconsciously, and we make our decisions accordingly. When you reframe your understanding of others according to this principle, you’ll realize why they do the things they do – and find it easier to forgive, have empathy and discover new ways to reconnect with family.
7. Learn to control your emotions
As you work on reconnecting with family members, you may have moments of frustration. Maybe you’ve had a long day at work and are finding it difficult to be present. Or your partner does that one thing you really, really can’t stand. This is when it is most difficult – and most important – to control your emotions. Ask yourself what they are telling you. Feel them, but let them pass without making the situation worse.
8. Share openly
Building an environment of trust and respect is key to how to reconnect with family. It starts with being honest with yourself: about your own needs, desires and how you want to experience your relationships. If you really want to reconnect, you’ll have to admit past mistakes and have your partner or family members do the same. This can be especially difficult if your trust has been betrayed – but that just makes it all the more crucial.
9. Start new traditions
Remember that your past is not your future unless you live there. Reconnecting with your loved ones is about moving forward, not living in the past. The holidays are the perfect time to discover new ways to reconnect with family, but you can start new traditions in any season. Get together with parents on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Take a summer vacation with your siblings and their families. Do something extra special with your partner on your anniversary. Shared experiences provide the bonding time you need to rediscover lost relationships.
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