Q&A – Developing A Sense of Togetherness in a Harried Household

Question: My family lives together under one roof, and we share the same last name, but we don't "feel" like a family. How can I begin to put a sense of togetherness into this harried household? How do you put meaningful activities into your family?

Answer: One way to accomplish that is by creating traditions in your home. By traditions I'm referring to those recurring events and behaviors that are anticipated, especially by children, as times of closeness and fellowship between loved ones.

In our family, the centerpiece of our holiday traditions is food. Each year during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the women prepare marvelous turkey dinners with all the trimmings. Another great favorite at that time is a fruit dish called ambrosia, containing sectioned oranges and grapes. The family peels the grapes together the night before the big day. These holidays are wonderful experiences for all of us. There's laughter and warm family interaction throughout the day. We look forward to that festive season, not just for the food, but for what happens between loved ones who come together on that occasion.

We also have designated foods on the other holidays throughout the year. On New Year's Day, for reasons I cannot explain, we enjoy a southern meal of pinto beans cooked at least eight hours with large chunks of lean ham, served with corn bread and little onions. It's so good! For many years, we invited thirty or more friends to our home on July Fourth and served them barbecued hamburgers and baked beans. This became a prelude to the fireworks display and much fun and laughter.

There are many other traditions. Immediately prior to the Thanksgiving dinner, I read a passage of Scripture and Shirley tells the story of the Pilgrims who thanked God for helping them survive the ravages of winter. Then each person is given two kernels of Indian corn to symbolize the blessings he or she is most thankful for that year. A basket is passed, and every member drops in the corn while sharing their two richest blessings from God during that year. Our expressions of thankfulness inevitably involve people--children, grandparents, and other loved ones. As the basket moves around the table, tears of appreciation and love are evident on many faces. It is one of the most beautiful moments of the year.

The great value of traditions is that they give a family a sense of identity and belonging. All of us desperately need to feel that we're not just part of a busy cluster of people living together in a house but we're a living, breathing family that's conscious of our uniqueness, our character, and our heritage. That feeling is the only antidote for the loneliness and isolation that characterize so many homes today.

The The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide

By Dr. James Dobson

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