Empty nests do not equate to dissolved families. Celebrating our family identity keeps those relationships fresh and alive.
Although our nuclear family has transformed into an extended—and even long-distance—family, we still maintain our core identity. Who are we and what it means to be a member of this family changes over time as the children mature and add spouses, but that sense of family can always be there.
I asked my kids to give me a list of descriptors that described us. They immediately responded with silly, goofy, and weird. My son added “zany at times.” (Their friends say our family is not normal.) Don’t worry, they also included open, communicative, loving, adaptive, loyal, and close.
How would you describe your family? What is your family identity that keeps you close even when you are apart? Here are a few things we do; feel free to adopt and adapt to your family!
- Humor is an essential part of our relationships and keeps us in touch in a lighthearted way. We love puns like, “I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!” (You heard the rimshot, right? Ba-dum-SHH) Whether we laugh or groan, it’s a simple way to connect and requires little-to-no response. It simply says, I thought of you today!
- Communication is key but doesn’t need to be constant. Regular and diverse forms such as phone calls, texts, video chats, and visits all work together for this. It allows us to keep our relationships a priority. But be flexible, and give each other grace; just because you didn’t hear from them in the past week doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they are living an active life. When you do talk, learn to be an active listener. Reflect to them what they are sharing so that they know you are engaged.
- Shared Experiences: Occasionally, we choose a show series or movie to watch. We don’t watch it at the same time, but we set aside time to discuss it. The content ranges from light to serious to a little bit of both. The point is to connect—you don’t have to be together to be together!
- We regularly meet with extended family on both sides of the family. This reaffirms our relationships with our core family, reunites us with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and promotes the value that family is important. Of course, it depends on your family dynamics and who is willing to participate. For us, it’s not a coerced event, and our kids participate eagerly.
- Share hospitality. Friendly reception of their friends increases your family reach. When college friends came to our house for short visits, we tried to embrace them as our own, doing our best to make them feel welcome. Not only does this show love to the friends, but it also honors your kids’ and makes them feel loved as well.
- Keep an Open-Door Policy. Our ongoing relationship needs to be a place of security. No matter their choices in life, they need to know they are an accepted part of the family Luke 15;11-32). We may not agree with you, but we will always love you. Love outshines our opinions; they know what we believe.
My son summed it up this way, “We’re all so comfortable with one another. We celebrate our strengths and support each other in our weaknesses. We enjoy our similarities as well as what make us each unique.”
We’re not a perfect family. We get frustrated and annoyed with each other at times. But we work hard to see past the frustrations to celebrate and support each other.
What does your family value? I’d love to hear about how you would describe your family identity. Send me an email and tell me all about it!