When was the last time you just sat and talked with your child or your spouse? In today’s busy world, more and more families are throwing away valuable opportunities for spending quality time together. Without a commitment to carving spaces for family bonding moments, families can slowly grow apart. How can a family prevent this from happening? Read on for seven tips on keeping your family close and your love strong.

1. Eat Dinner Together
Research shows that families who sit down and eat dinner together reap the benefits. A Harvard study showed that family meals promote overall healthy child development. With everyone always being so busy these days, there’s something special about taking the time to sit, talk, and eat together as a family. That means put away the iPads, iPhones, Leapsters, and other technological devices. Turn off the television. Ask questions: What did you learn in school today? How was work? What was your favorite part of today? Take these precious moments to focus on one another and find out what is happening in each other’s life.

2. Read a Bedtime Story
I have a feeling my children’s favorite part of the day is bedtime story hour. Sure they love the stories being read to them by mom or dad, but more than that, it’s that quiet moment when we are physically close together; me in the middle reading, one child on either side. It’s their special time to ask me questions, or tell me secrets. If you have older children, read-aloud moments don’t have to end. Pop in an audio book and sit together on the couch to listen. Or take turns reading books like Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book or Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Pause and take time to ask each other questions about the story. What would you do if you were in that situation? Why do you think he did that? What do you think he felt? You might be amazed at how much you learn about your family. So stack up on those library books!

3. Take a Walk
A friend of mine says one of their favorite activities to do together as a family is go for a walk after dinner. My great grandmother and I used to do the same thing when I was a child, and though I have forgotten so many things from my childhood, our walks together still stand out. They were happy moments when we simply enjoyed each other and our surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you walk. It could be around your neighborhood, a local park, or even the countryside. Take time to point out unique events or objects to your family members. What matters most is that you are open to discovery—together. And the best part? It helps you stay fit.

4. Assign Each Person a Day
Pick a day of the week and make it someone’s day. I recommend giving the kids weekends because weekdays can get pretty busy with school and sports. When someone’s day comes around, help make it special for him or her. Perhaps they get to choose what everyone eats for dinner, or they’re allowed to pick the book, movie, or activity of the day. Encourage your other family members to give small gifts: a special note, a flower picked just for him or her.

5. Take Time to Sit and Talk
One-on-one conversations are slowly disappearing from homes across the world. With social media and other distractions, we are slowly losing the art of talking to each other. This is an important skill for children to learn, part of the social skills they need to effectively communicate and relate to others. Moms, try taking 10 or 15 minutes right after school, or when you or your child gets home, to eat a snack, drink some tea, and talk to each other. And don’t forget to do the same with your spouse. After the kids are in bed, unwind with a cup of tea (or whatever you prefer) and talk with each other. Those moments help to cement the bonds of love and affection.

6. Go Out On a Date
Once children are born, so many couples lose those quiet, romantic moments together. Especially if you don’t live near family, it can be very hard to find time to escape and recharge your relationship with your spouse. But time away from the kids is so important to couples because it helps them communicate about their feelings, hopes, disappointments and so much more, which strengthens their relationship. A night out is a great way to remember why you fell in love in the first place. So find a sitter and go out to dinner and a movie…or whatever.

7. Create a Family Tradition
Annual family pictures. Pajama Day. Planning summer vacations. Write down special memories and quotes on 3 x 5 cards and file them away from time to time. All of these activities strengthen the bonds of affection and are moments your child will remember throughout their lives. There is comfort in routines, and knowing that each year you’ll be celebrating or enjoying a family tradition is “chicken soup for the soul”. By creating family traditions, you are writing your family’s unique story and making it last for a lifetime.