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10 Tips for Strengthening Family Relationships

The Open Sky Team

Are you ready to strengthen family relationships in 2020? At Open Sky, we inspire people to learn and live in a way that honors values and strengthens relationships. This is a key component of our mission. Below, members of our Family Services, Clinical, and Alumni Relations teams share tangible tips to enhance, enrich, and strengthen your family relationships in the new year.

1. Share Gratitudes

JJ Simms, Family Care Coordinator Open Sky“Share gratitudes before dinner. It’s a practice students do in the field: the team and staff circle around the fire before dinner, and one by one, share a few things they are grateful for. A similar practice for families before dinner creates a moment for reflection, a moment to be present with each other, and a moment to consider what we’re grateful for, which can otherwise be easily overlooked.”JJ Simms • Lead Family Care Coordinator • Adolescent Girls

2. Schedule Time to Check In

Robin Wolthausen, Transition Mentor & Family Quest Guide“Schedule a monthly check-in with each other. Have these check-ins include things you connect on and things you disagree about. Create a list in advance of categories to cover, such as health, home, travel, support, quality time, etc. Checking in regularly is important because it is time specifically set aside to talk about what’s important to each person, understand each other better, and get on the same page about certain topics. Without scheduled time, it’s much easier for resentments and misunderstandings to build up over time. On the day you plan to check in, I also recommend starting and/or ending with a sweet and connective activity, such as going to breakfast or going on a favorite hike.”Robin Wolthausen • Transition Mentor & Family Quest Guide

3. Role Model Accountability

Brian Leidal, MA, LPC, Therapist at Open Sky“In moments of conflict and misunderstanding, I’ve begun the practice of saying, “The story I’m telling myself is…” This idea comes from the book “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW. It is a way of recognizing and owning the narrative we subconsciously create when feeling anger, disappointment, or embarrassment. By starting the conversation with “The story I’m telling myself is…,” we are opening the conversation in a way that names the issue, doesn’t place blame, and takes accountability for the narrative we tell ourselves that contributed to our emotions and reactions.”Brian Leidal, MA, LPC • Clinical Therapist • Young Adults

4. Set Boundaries with Technology

Sebastiaan Zuidweg, MA, LPC, Clinical Director Open Sky“Make an agreement as a family to set boundaries with technology. One idea is to have dinner as a family (away from the TV) at the table, five times a week. Another example would be to turn off cell phones during certain family activities, i.e. meals, movies, or walks. Or, schedule tech-free windows of time at home.”Sebastiaan Zuidweg, MA, LPC • Clinical Director & Therapist

5. Have Structured Conversations

“Take time during a family meal to have some structured conversation. Some ideas might be to have each family member share 3 things: his/her accomplishment of the day, a personal goal for the upcoming week or month, and a hope for the family in 2020.”Sebastiaan Zuidweg, MA, LPC • Clinical Director & Therapist

6. Get Outside (Together!)

Tanya Dalebout, Alumni & Family Liaison“Getting outside and going on an adventure is a great way to connect with your loved ones. You’re experiencing something new together, making a memory, and sharing moments of connection without the distractions at home.”Tanya Dalebout • Alumni Relations Manager

7. Practice Forgiveness

Matthew Krugh, MSW Open Sky“At the end of each day, forgiveness brings people closer in relationship. Set aside five minutes at the close of each day to practice a loving kindness meditation (called “metta”), reflect, or create intentional space to send love and light to yourself and others. In this time, sit quietly, take stock of the day, affirm yourself for the ways you showed up well, forgive yourself for the ways you missed the mark and realign with your core values. Then repeat these steps with others in mind. Finish by sending out healing love to both yourself and the others you thought of. Research demonstrates this type of practice can help us feel less isolated and more connected with one another.”Matthew Krugh, MSW • Family Services Director

8. Schedule Quality Time

Hunter King, Family Care Coordinator at Open Sky“Schedule quality time with your family each week. It could be simple, like a hike, game night, campfire, or visit to a museum. Quality time together creates more opportunity to understand each other, be aware of what is going on in each other’s world, and reconnect with each other’s interests and passions. It allows you to check in with your loved one’s growth and meet them where they’re at.”Hunter King • Family Care Coordinator • Young Adults

9. Take Space for You

Ben List Open Sky“Remember that it’s ok to take space for yourself, especially if family time is tense or overwhelming. Take the dog for a walk, go on a run, journal, or find some other way to give yourself some much needed personal time. In the end, know that taking care of yourself in this way can allow you to show up how you want to in relationship with your family.”Ben List • Transition Mentor & Family Quest Guide 

10. Celebrate the Goodness in Life

“Overwhelmingly so, we perceive and interpret information as negative throughout our daily lives. Thus, we can become easily stuck in a negativity bias. To counter this, we must purposefully endeavor to recognize and breathe in the positive in life. This can be as simple as sharing compliments, words of affirmation, or respects each day with your family. This assures your loved ones of the positive that you see, acknowledge, and admire in each of them.”Matthew Krugh, MSW • Family Services Director

Open Sky Gratitute

January 1st, 2020

The Open Sky Team