You might know a family like them, the ones all decked out in team gear for Sunday’s big game. They root together, sharing the joy of a win or the sting of a loss. They’ll be talking about the game for days.
Other families you know gather for family dinner every Sunday or vacation together every year. Some meet for midnight openings of long-awaited movies or run every area 5K together. Some even serve alongside each other for their favorite cause.
It’s just part of who they are as a family, part of their family identity.
Strong families know who they are and that they belong together, no matter what their individual differences. If you want to build strong family bonds then you need to encourage and cultivate a sense of family identity in your home.
9 Ways to cultivate a family identity
1. Clarify your family values.
Each family has its own set of values to focus on, and those values contribute to the family identity. When family members are certain of the rules and values established in the home, they feel safe and secure. On the other hand, failing to clarify values paves the way for confusion and chaos in the home.
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)
What values lie at the core of your family life? How do those values impact which activities you choose to participate in? How do your family’s values guide your children in life situations?
2. Emphasize traditions.
Traditions give children a sense of belonging, and not just to the current family unit, but even to previous generations. For this reason, celebrating traditions encourages the family identity.
How do you celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other special events? What do you do to mark the first or last day of school? Do you bake Great-Grandma’s special cookie recipe together? Is Friday night pizza night?
Even everyday traditions become part of your family identity.
You probably already have traditions in place even if you don’t realize it, but you can always add new ones, too! Emphasize the traditions you have. Draw your children’s attention to them and explain the significance of why you do the things you do.
3. Keep photo albums or scrapbooks.
I’ll never forget my Grandma’s bookshelf filled with photo albums. I believe she had over 20 albums full of family photos, a treasury. At Christmas every year, the aunts and uncles and cousins would pull out the albums and look through the physical representation of all our childhood memories.
Even as an adult, looking through photo albums is one of my favorite things to do!
Pictures remind us of who we are, where we came from, and what we’ve been through together – an important aspect of family identity. They show us that our littlest boy has Daddy’s nose and our oldest has Grandma’s chin. They document the progression of our family through time, the different places we’ve lived or visited, and the friends who have come and gone.
Memories are important to family identity!
4. Serve together.
Many families find part of their identity by rallying around a cause or a way to serve the Lord. Since I’m married to a pastor/church-planter, we are a pastor’s family. We work together to prepare for and host church events and to serve our community.
It’s just part of our family identity to work together.
If your family has a heart for animals, then consider serving at a local shelter. If you’ve experienced cancer, perhaps participate in a cancer prevention walk. Whatever need or cause your family can rally around helps to cement family identity.
5. Support one another.
We have a rule in our family that whenever possible, we will all attend each other’s events. Obviously in a family of six, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But for the most part, we go to soccer games, baseball games, plays, band concerts, and awards days together.
It’s important for siblings to feel supported by each other in addition to the support of both parents.
Although our middle son doesn’t always enjoy his older brother’s band concerts, he certainly enjoys having his brother watch his own soccer games. And as a parent, I love to hear a proud, “That’s my brother!” (or sister – whatever the case may be). 🙂
Be a family that celebrates each other. Make that an important part of your family identity.
6. Play together (or periodic random chaos).
Families that have fun together usually have a strong sense of family identity because they genuinely enjoy being with each other. Our family loves to tease, whether with words or poking or pillow fights.
Sometimes when our teen is upstairs (or when Dad is in the bathroom), I’ll get the younger kids together for an ambush. We wait quietly with koosh ball guns and nerf guns until the target makes an appearance and a war ensues. It may only last for 15 minutes or so, but it gets everyone laughing together.
Make laughter and playfulness part of your family identity by being silly together whenever possible!
7. Encourage common interests.
One way to develop your family identity is to teach your children to love similar things. For example, my husband is an Indianapolis Colts fan, so we root for the Colts in this household.
You may not enjoy sports, but your family might enjoy music, or crafting, or watching old movies, or playing games, or spending time in the outdoors.
Find common interests that you can enjoy together as a family.
8. Give conversation a chance.
Our kids love to talk. I have to admit they come by it honestly with two parents who are also talkers. 🙂 But when we are really busy as a family, we don’t have time to really listen to each other. I’ve noticed during those times that we deal with a lot more negative behavior.
One thing we do as a family is to eat supper together at the table nearly every evening of the week. Even during sports seasons, we will eat early or late if at all possible. Eating supper together gives us a chance to talk. The more we talk together, the more we learn about each other, the better our family identity.
Find a time to set aside for good conversation.
9. Spend time together.
Out of all the ways to cultivate a family identity, this one is perhaps the most important. Spending time together is instrumental in forming close ties, so there is no substitute for quality family time.
Set aside one night a week or a couple of nights a month for family game night, or go play a sport together. Schedule a family fun day by devoting an entire day to family time. Your kids will love it (and they will hold you to the whole day, so be prepared)!
One of our favorite ways to spend quality time together is to go on family vacation. Family vacation creates fond memories that are unique to us, which is key in cultivating a family identity.
Are you concerned about finances? Your family vacation need not be expensive nor extravagant to accomplish its purpose. In fact, you don’t even need to leave home to set aside a few days for family time!
If you haven’t already put some of these tips into practice, I hope you’ll do so soon! Cultivating a family identity is just one of many valuable ways to strengthen your family bonds.
Come back next week for another installment in the month-long We Are Fa-mi-ly Series!
Join in me in scheduling some family fun?
Other posts in the We Are Fa-mi-ly Series: