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School bell should ring in new focus on family relationships

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Across the country, yellow buses are back on the road and school bells are ringing.

But, according to Haeli Harris, a marriage and family therapy intern at Swinton Counseling, school time is also a time to place renewed focus on family.

"As a parent, I know this time of year is when our lives pick back up into full swing," Harris writes. "Summer is nearing an end, school is starting, and let’s not forget all of the activities, lessons, and clubs that will be starting or already have. January is not the start of a new year for families with children in school. August is when our new year actually starts. Schedules fill up with school registration, back to school nights, PTA sign-ups, homework, clubs and sports team registrations, try-outs, orientations and scheduling, and the list goes on and on, right?"

Less time for family amid all of the hubbub of school and activities? That's not a good idea, Harris argues. She recommends parents set aside time for specific activities that will build healthy relationships in their families.

One idea is to respect dinner or meal times when the family can sit down together, eat, and share the news of the day and discuss what's going on in their lives. The healthiest families take time to share a meal and also share news, conversation, and laughter.

Another is to plan a weekly family activity. Harris says even very busy families can set aside at least twice or three times a month.

"This can be anything from spending a Sunday afternoon at the park, going on a hike or a bike ride, playing games on a night you all have free, going on a family drive, even a mini vacation is a great way to feel like you get away as a family but you don’t have to spend a lot of money or time planning it," Harris says. "My mini vacations consist of one or two nights in a hotel in a city close by but yet far enough to feel away!"

Also, since healthy relationships in a family start with the parents, it's wise to schedule "couple time" when they can nourish and refresh their own relationship.

"Through all of the hustle and bustle with kids, couples tend to put their relationship on the back burner or low on the priority list," Harris warns. "A healthy marriage is what will keep the family closer together especially through these busy times. Remember to continue your weekly dates. Go to bed together. After the kids are in bed, use that time to just be alone with each other. Check in with each other throughout the day with a simple text or phone call to see how the other’s day is going."

A new school year is an exciting time for every family. It gets even better, Harris believes, if there are still exciting things to look forward to at home.

To learn more about these and other issues, visit the weekly relationship tips from Swinton Counseling, a provider of comprehensive counseling services to couples, families, and individuals.

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