You Say Goodbye, And I Say Hello

Life has become a bit of a blur lately, hasn’t it? It’s out of bed and off to school in the morning, breakfast bar in hand, followed by a mad rush to the activity du jour after school. Next thing you know you’ve got the kids speeding through their homework, gobbling down a quick dinner, splashing a little water on their bods and finally hitting the hay as you collapse on the floor outside their bedrooms.

I get it. It seems like it’s just the way it is these days. But as the pace increases so too does the stress level for your family. Is there anything you can do to turn the burners down a bit and create a calmer atmosphere in your home?

Yes there is, but rather than give you a long laundry list of things to try, I’m going to share just one thing and hope that you will take it in and make it a new habit in your family.

This one thing seems like a no-brainer and it couldn’t be simpler, but you’d be surprised to know how many families skip it. It doesn’t seem that important but the effects are significant and real and affect the quality of your family relationships in a big way.

So what is it? Well, believe it or not, the one simple thing you can do is to take time to meet and greet each member of the family as he or she arrives home or gets picked up from school. Yep, we’re talking about hello and goodbye.

I can see you shaking your heads right now and thinking I’m nuts. I’m not. It’s not that parents (or children) don’t care, it’s all about a bad habit sneaking in because of the rush and the perception that there isn’t enough time. Think about it — have you ever greeted your spouse as he walked in the door with, “Hi. Did you bring in the garbage can? It’s about to start raining and we’ve got a bunch of trash to take out.” Or how about, “Hi. Did you hand in the note I gave you for your teacher? Your snack is in that plastic bag back there. Hurry up and eat it before we get to piano.”

And how often have you or your spouse walked in the door at the end of a hectic day only to be basically ignored by your kids who are busy on their computers or watching T.V.?

Research has shown that taking the time to connect with a family member when he comes home actually shapes that person’s mood for the rest of the night! Did you get that? Stress is reduced and connectivity occurs. The person who made it home, be they child or adult, feels seen and loved.

You don’t need to agonize over finding time in a too-packed day or week to “be together.” You can create the feeling of togetherness and belonging by just regularly stopping to pay attention to your family in the here-and-now as they come and go.

That iconic image we all have of kids running to greet mom or dad as they enter the front door is a good thing to try and create in your own home. It sets a tone and helps establish the sense that family members are important and matter to each other.

But in order to have an impact, it’s going to have to come from the top down. So have a talk with your spouse and make a pact to put down whatever it is that’s got your attention when one of you returns for the day. Say hello and give each other a hug and a kiss. Then encourage your kids to do the same.

And when you pick those little (or big) monsters up from school, take a minute (you don’t need much more than that) to look them in the eye, give them a big smile and (if you’re not in the car) a hug and say hello with love and enthusiasm. A little goes a long way here.

Same thing goes for goodbye and goodnight. Don’t let anyone rush out of the house or off to bed without a proper goodbye or goodnight along with a kiss and a hug. These simple greetings do a ton to create cohesion in your family and lower the stress level to boot. Who would have thought it could be that easy?

It’s just one thing but it truly can help.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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