Eight habits, eight action verbs, to develop that can help in marriages and families:

1.  APPRECIATE – Every day look for the good in your spouse and children.  Verbalize the good you see.  Write an occasional note of appreciation or send an email or text.  Say “Thank you.”  Acknowledge good deeds.  Pay sincere compliments.  Write what you appreciate about each family member in your journal.  Let your family members hear you express your gratitude for them as you pray.

  2.  COMMUNICATE – Develop good listening habits.  Stop what you are doing and look at your spouse or children as they speak to you.  Make time to visit with your spouse privately to make observations, plans, and goals.  Make sure your goals are mutually understood.  Enhance the private time visiting with your spouse with prayer.  Make time to nurture physical and spiritual intimacy in your marriage.  Talk with your children.  Ask them specific questions about their day.  Don’t give advice unless asked.  

3.  COOPERATE –  In your marriage work together as equal partners.  Learn how to negotiate a compromise and teach your children how to do so.  Stand as a united front where the children are concerned.  Have shared goals as a couple and as a family.  All family members should help with household chores.  Chores are simply part of being a family.  Help your children develop the habit of stepping in and helping when needed.  Older children can listen to younger siblings read or practice spelling words.  Teach your children healthy ways to deal with conflict.

4.  CONTEMPLATE –  Spend time alone to pray, meditate, read scriptures or other uplifting material.  Reflect inwardly and honestly about your personal relationship with your spouse and children.  Set goals for any improvements that you need to make.  As a family worship together, read scriptures, pray.  Seek to be in tune with the Lord or your inner voice.  Use your journal to write down any inspiration received.

5.  PARTICIPATE –  Attend the sporting events, music concerts, and dance performances of your children.  Join your family members in their hobbies.  Show an active interest in what they are doing.  Spend time as a family doing activities you all enjoy such as bike rides, hiking, attending plays, playing sports.  Get involved with your kids’ schools.  Volunteer in their classrooms.  Be an active participant in the lives of your family members.   

6.  CELEBRATE–  Remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other dates worthy of commemorating.  Develop fun family traditions to set special days, such as birthdays, apart.  Celebrate holidays.  Display the awards family members receive.  Hang up exceptional school work.  Share accomplishments with extended family members.   Almost anything can be reason to celebrate:  a promotion at work, a soccer win, an improved grade, handling a difficult situation well.  As a couple celebrate the day you got engaged.  Celebrate the anniversary of your first date.  Be grateful for every day you have together.

7.  MOTIVATE–  Look for good things that happen throughout your day to share with your family.  Let your family see that you enjoy what you do.  Look for talents in your family members and encourage them to pursue them.  Speak positively about their efforts.  Schedule family meetings to discuss future plans of individuals.  Encourage everyone to show their support.  Make motivational books and videos available in your home.

8.  ELEVATE –  Make your spouse and family your top priorities.  Allow no interruptions during family meeting times and outings.  Teach your kids proper manners.  Promote civility.  Speak with a soft, calm voice.  Teach your values to your children.  Provide uplifting reading materials, movies, and music in your home.  Always listen to both sides of the story before making any judgements.

Appreciate, communicate, cooperate, contemplate, participate, celebrate, motivate, elevate.  Eight ideas.  Eight habits.  Perhaps they will resonate with you to rejuvanate and invigorate your family life and then you can anticipate better days ahead!

Some of the ideas for this post came from an article written by Russell M. Nelson (“Nurturing Marriage,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2006, 37-38).

“Notice my socks.”  Grandpa stuck out his right foot so I could see that his sock had been cut down to the ankle.  “I did that so I can scratch my leg better.”   Only one leg itched, so only one sock had been cut down.

The quirky sock comment is one of the main things that sticks out in my mind about my visit with my 86 year old grandfather in January.  The other thing that I remember most about that visit is how lonely Grandpa seemed to feel.  Grandma died 2 1/2 years ago after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for a few years.  Though he tries to go about his daily life by doing such things as working in his yard or visiting with family, Grandpa seems as though he’s only going through the motions.  He said several times during our visit how much he misses Grandma.

For Christmas I decided to give Grandpa the gift of time–my time.  I bought him a game of Skip-Bo, wrapped it up, and taped a note to the top of the package stating that I would be visiting him once a month to play games with him.  When he talked to my mom a little later about the gift I had given him he said, “She doesn’t have to do that.  And besides, I don’t know any games to play.”  But that is just Grandpa.  He doesn’t want to be a bother.

The first time I visited in January we never got around to playing any games.  He just talked.  And I listened.  I nodded.  I smiled.  Not only did I hear about his socks and how much he missed Grandma, I also heard the schedule of the t.v. shows he watches, how his dog, Nikita, protects him, and how he is sure he comes from Tower of Babel times, because he can no longer understand what people are saying in church (said with a wink and a chuckle).  I enjoyed the visit and left feeling excited for February’s visit.

In February I took advantage of the President’s Day holiday and took my kids with me since there was no school.  I want the four of them to connect with their “Grandpa Great.”  We pulled the kitchen table out and placed Uno Attack on it.  Grandpa eyed the game warily and asked, “What is that?  I’ve never seen that before.”

“It’s a game, Grandpa.  You’ll learn it.”

The first time the game spit a bunch of cards out Grandpa laughed hard.  When he caught on that it would happen randomly throughout the game he sat forward and watched intently whenever one of us had to press the button.  We played several hands, Grandpa playfully accusing anyone that won a hand of cheating.  “Hoob”, who was sitting next to Grandpa, got into the act and started dishing him out Draw cards whenever she got the chance.  Grandpa had a good time retaliating.  “Huh” had brought along her guy pal, “Brass.”  At one point in the game Grandpa looked at “Brass” and asked what was wrong with him since “Brass” couldn’t seem to win a hand.

Unfortunately, “Brass” had to be home early, so we were only able to play the game with Grandpa for an hour.  As we were walking out the door the kids all commented that they had had fun.  “Mack” even asked me a few days later when we could do it again.

Yesterday “Yawlin” got out of school early so I took him with me for the March visit.  This time we brought the game Sorry.  Again, Grandpa looked at the game warily and asked, “What is that?”

And again the answer, “It’s a game, Grandpa.  You’ll learn.”

My second cousin “A”, who lives in the back portion of Grandpa’s house, was there when we arrived so we invited him to play.  Grandpa quickly replaced the batteries in his hearing aids so that he could hear us better and we began the game.  “Yawlin” was quick to give Grandpa pointers and moved Grandpa’s pawns for him whenever they were too far away for Grandpa to reach.  “A” ended up winning the game.  But, since it had ended sooner than any of us wanted, we continued to play to see who would come in second.  “Yawlin” got that honor. 

Grandpa and I looked at each other and in unison said, “Who gets third?”  The game continued. 

Now “A” and “Yawlin” were totally against me and rooting for Grandpa to win.  It came down to both of us needing a One card to get our final pawn into Home.  Back and forth we went drawing cards, the boys cheering whenever I drew a card that I couldn’t use and groaning when Grandpa did the same.  When Grandpa finally drew the coveted One card the boys were ecstatic.  And so was Grandpa.  He thanked me several times for coming.

My Mom told me that whenever she tells Grandpa I’m on my way he always says, “She doesn’t have to come all year long.”  But then Mom says, “I think he secretly likes it.”  I do too.

I thanked “Yawlin” for coming with me yesterday.  He grinned and told me he’d had fun.  I think there might be a connection forming between “Yawlin” and Grandpa Great.  I look forward to the April visit.  Maybe we’ll be able to play the Skip-Bo game that I originally bought when I decided to give time to Grandpa.