First Things First: How connected are you to your family?

Julie Baumgardner
Julie Baumgardner

Who is your child's favorite teacher of all time?

What is your spouse's favorite thing to do in his/her spare time?

photo Julie Baumgardner

What is your child's favorite meal?

Given the opportunity for a night out, how would your spouse prefer to spend the evening?

What person outside the family has most influenced your child's life?

What household chore does your spouse dislike the most?

What accomplishment is your child most proud of?

If money were no object, what one thing would your spouse most want to purchase?

Who is your child's hero?

What makes your spouse feel truly loved?

Now, go check out your answers to see how close you were to getting them right. The only way to know all the answers to these questions is through being truly connected to your family.

This season is a time for all of us to consider the important connections we have with others. These connections help us become who we are, and most people recognize that relationships impact our lives in powerful ways.

"From a cultural standpoint, the connections that people have with one another and through social networks have been shown to improve the mental, physical and spiritual health of individuals," said Christopher Brown, anthropologist and president of the National Fatherhood Initiative. "There is something that happens physiologically when people are connected, which is why people do better when they are involved in healthy relationships with others."

One of the most powerful relationships is between a parent and child. Studies show that parents are the first and most important teachers of children. Kids thrive when they can depend on a reliable parent when they need to talk, when they want input, when they need a hug or when they want assurance that life will work out.


Research from the University of Michigan found that the connectedness that takes place during frequent meal times with the family was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems, even better than time spent studying or in church.

Experts agree that:

» Family dinner table conversation has been shown to increase children's mental and verbal abilities.

» Eating together promotes good communication and strengthens family bonds and relationships.

» Families who regularly eat together have more cohesion and unity.

» Family meals give children a sense of security.


If your family struggles with connectedness, you can change things up a bit, starting with the Thanksgiving meal.

Connections do count every day of the year, not just around the holidays. If you didn't do so well with the quiz above, this could be a great opportunity for you to re-evaluate how you connect in your home. Your family can choose to connect with others through social media or digital technology, or you can be more intentional about really connecting to each other face to face.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email her at

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