By Miriam Merrill
Most of us have a desire to advocate for families, but in the midst of frightening headlines and threatening policy proposals it is easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. The good news is that there are many inexpensive and easy, yet significant, ways you can do your part to advocate for the family. Take a look and add some of these to your to-do list this week!
Hold Hands With Your Spouse in Public
Remember when you were little and the sight of a couple in love would make you swoon? When I was younger, I do not think I could pass a married couple holding hands without thinking to myself, “I want a happy marriage like that someday!” The gesture of holding your spouse’s hand in public is a simple message that you are proud to be married and proud of your spouse, that you are their protector, and that you value fidelity. It is also a silent lesson to those younger than you that marriage is happy, special, and something they can strive for! in addition, there are many studies that prove holding hands strengthens relationships. One study by Forevermark found that 96% of Americans feel immediate mood improvement when their significant other reaches for their hand. It also found that couples who hold hands more also laugh together more, and that couples who hold hands often report almost significantly more marital satisfaction than those that do not. Thus hand-holding in public is a great way to advocate for the family as well as for the institution of marriage.
2. Plan a Family Game Night
Albert Bandura’s 1961 Bobo Doll experiment proves that children learn social constructs and social behaviors from adults. While a variety of factors will play a part in determining your child’s political beliefs, your example will perhaps be the most influential of all. Setting aside time in your busy schedule to plan a night just for your family sends a strong message that they are important to you. In turn, they then will be more likely to develop a belief that families are important and should be a priority in their life. Make your son’s favorite treat. Play your daughter’s favorite game before you play your own. Seize any opportunities to compliment members of your family, express love, and show them that they are your priority. Do not forget to take pictures for the memories!
3. Post a Picture of Your Parents or Grandparents on Facebook
In 2013, Facebook analyzed three million accounts to figure out the effect that various posts have on other users. They discovered that seeing positive posts influences other users to post positive updates as well. The opposite is also true. Therefore, taking a moment to positively post about your parents, grandparents, or any relative for that matter, is a great way to not only publicly advocate for the importance and significance of familial relationships, but also to increase positivity in the users that see it and hopefully inspire them to realize their own gratitude for families. Share a lesson you learned from your aunt. Express gratitude to your mother or father. Post a video of one of your grandparents, . Though simple, it is powerful. with all the negativity on Facebook we would do well to seek opportunities to be an instigator of kindness and love on social media.
4. Volunteer in Your Child’s School
There are a plethora of reasons why volunteering in your child’s school is a good idea. Research has shown that when you are involved in your child’s education, your child is more likely to attend school regularly, pass their classes, have better social skills, score higher on tests, complete homework assignments, and graduate. This is not just for moms! When fathers are highly involved in their children’s education the children are more likely to academically succeed and enjoy school, and they are less likely to be suspended or have to repeat a grade. The benefits are clear: whether you’re serving on the PTA, helping with a holiday party, or serving as a field trip chaperone, by spending time in your child’s school you are advocating for their academic success. By developing a relationship with your child’s teacher and administration, you will have a greater ability to advocate for your child’s unique needs and to discuss any concerns you may have with any curriculum or course content. You will also be able to observe where your child spends the majority of his or her day, which will enable you to better understand them. 55% of teens report that they tried drugs for the first time because they felt pressure from their friends, 19% of teens would give up using their cell phone while driving if their friends did, and 1/3 of teen boys feel pressure from their friends to have sex. These are all issues that can be addressed in the home, but only if you know about them. For a better understanding of the pressure your children may be feeling, step into their world by spending time in their school.
5. Review Your TV, Phone, and Computer Settings
In the technologically-driven world we live in, one of the best ways to advocate for and protect your family is to review the settings you have on phones, computers, and TVs. Research has found that most parents of 5-to-15-year-olds believe they know about the internet and how to keep their children safe, but four out of five teenagers say they know how to hide their online behavior from their parents. And the answer is not always to restrict internet access, as fear of restriction is a reason many teenagers will not tell their parents about something they have come across online. Instead, the best way to start is to research current trends in the media that threaten the safety of children and teenagers, then seek opportunities to teach your family about them. Work together to create settings that will help them combat the behavior, whether it is a content filter, time restrictions, or even a screen-sharing app. There are many products out there to help but the only way to know which is best is to see where you are at now and do a little bit of research.
Through these simple measures, just a few of many that we may take, will improve our relationships with our spouse and with our children. Strengthening our bond with our spouse, spending time together as a family, sharing positivity and family history on our social media accounts, and stepping into our children’s worlds by having frank and open conversations about screen use and being involved in their schools will only increase the family’s safety and wellbeing.