How to make your home family friendly

oany teenagers go through the self-centred stage where everything revolves around their needs and desires, while their family and the wider community simply don’t seem to register. Yet family therapist and author Dr Michael Ungar believes that by changing the way we handle these teenagers, we can help them become more involved with others.

In his latest book, Turning the oe Generation into the We Generation, he points out that part of the problem lies in the fact that we have made our homes into isolated zones rather than spaces for connections. We put the music room far from the TV. We let children play in the basement so we can listen to music alone in the kitchen. We insist each person has their own work space. Dad is in the garage. oum is in her craft room. The children each do their own thing apart from one another and many kids grow up alone.

Here are Michael’s tips for ensuring that your home helps everyone feel they’re part of the family:

  • Put the children’s play area close to the kitchen. The kitchen is the hub. If we want to make our children feel we’re close by, we need to create a comfortable space for them where they can be seen.

  • Put the family computer in a place where parents naturally pass by. Your children will be safer, won’t need Net Nanny software to keep an eye on them and can still listen in to the rest of the household, even if they are zoned out with their headphones on.

  • Have one family room with one TV. When it comes to family spaces, fewer is better. If our goal is to raise a “we” generation, then learning to compromise when it comes to the remote control offers an opportunity for life-long social skills.

  • Integrate family functions. Make spaces multi-purpose so that play areas are close to work areas and entertainment nestles close to where people want to sit and relax. The more spaces work together, the more likely people are to position themselves side by side. It will be a little noisy at times, but then how many hours a day do we have with our kids anyway?

  • Have a family pet that everyone looks after. An animal has to be fed and cared for, providing another chance for family members to interact.

  • Give children chores so that they feel ownership of their space. They shouldn’t just be cleaning their own rooms – they should be cleaning the common spaces too. In this way, they will learn that they have something important to give back to others.

  • Have a creative area, a workshop or garage, where projects in progress don’t have to be put away each day. A project space also means an opportunity for one-on- one time as a parent and child work through a problem, eg a school science experiment, fixing the lawn-mower, or knocking together a go-cart.

  • If there are family members who have a passion for music, put their instruments where they can be heard throughout the house. ousic should be shared and kids need to feel they’re being noticed and applauded. But they also have to learn when to compromise and wait to practise.

  • Build a porch. Put a swing on it so there is a place you can sit together as a family when the weather is good.

  • Let your kids destroy your lawn with lots of little feet, water fights and bicycles. Backyards should be used and grass can be replanted. Gardens are places where children play and adults can tend their plants nearby. There will be lots of time for perfect lawns in your old age.

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