Ask the Expert: Getting back to a better family life
Ask for the views of everyone as to how things are and how they might be better in your family. Photograph: Getty Images
Q My wife and I had a challenging and busy year in 2013. I was putting in crazy hours at work and then my wife was sick for a period, which became quite a health scare but thankfully she is through that now.
We have three teenage children (13, 15 and 16) who are busy with their own lives and I feel I have sort of lost touch with them during the past year.
Over Christmas I had hoped we would spend more time together but they were out with their friends and had their own plans.
My wife and I had some good time together and we were both saying we wanted this year to be different – we want to get back to a better family life. What can we do to get things back on track? Have we left it too late with our teenagers?
A The new year is a good time to review your priorities and make plans and resolutions. While many people do this for their work and for personal resolutions such as health and fitness, frequently people neglect to set goals for their relationships and family life.
This is despite the fact that most people rate their family relationships as the most important aspect of their lives and the source of greatest satisfaction for them.
So you are right to take time out to think about your family life and to set priorities for what is important in the coming year.
Part of the difficulty in making plans or introducing resolutions for your family is that these always involve agreement with other people.
Family goals and priorities are always shared ones. All are subject to negotiation, first with your spouse and then with your children. While some families readily talk about “how things are going” in their lives with one another, more often than not families avoid these conversations and can easily drift along.
It can be particularly hard to include teenagers who may be pushing for independence or may be at a stage of “rejecting” family life. However, even the most rebellious teenager benefits from being involved with their families and it is important to maintain the thread of a quality relationship with them – especially through difficult times.
Sit down and plan with your wife
Continue the good start you and your wife had over Christmas and make a commitment to talk a few times over the next few days to set priorities for you and your family in 2014.
Take a moment to imagine what 2014 would look like if it went really well for you and then plan out what steps you could take towards this.
Committing to simple family rituals can make a big difference to family life whether this is arranging one of you is in the house when the children come in from school (to hear their news, and so on) or that you set aside a weekly family night when everyone stays in for a special meal or think of a family project that everyone can engage in (such as going on a family holiday or improving the home or garden in some way). Think of what might work for you and your family.