The demands of life have a way of pulling us apart from the people we love the most.

Pressed by deadlines and appointments, we often have no time left for our most important relationships.

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Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, a new year is an opportunity to turn a page and start a fresh chapter in your life.

For married couples and parents, it’s an ideal time to consider how you can use the gift of a new year to make plans for building stronger connections with those you love.

Sixty-one percent of working Americans say they don’t have enough time to do what they want, according to a Gallup survey last year. Sixty-one percent of parents caring for children under 18 years old feel the same time crunch.

A poll of 2,000 parents by Virgin Holidays and Universal Orlando Resort not long ago found that average parents spend only 36 minutes a day with their children.

If the past year is one marked by too much busyness and not enough time with your spouse or children, consider doing one of the following to build stronger connections with each other in the new year.

Update your “love maps.” This concept was developed by relationship expert Dr. John Gottman. In studying what makes relationships work, he discovered that married couples who thrive in their relationships demonstrate a deep knowledge about each other, such as their interests and hobbies, likes, dislikes, hopes, and fears.

Gottman calls the mental notes that couples keep about each other “love maps.” Gottman saw that the positive interest spouses show toward each other helps them forge a strong bond that helps them stick together, especially during stressful times of life.

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The concept also works for parents who want to build strong connections with their kids. When parents show a positive interest in their children’s world by remembering what’s important to them, children feel supported and empowered.

When they’re with their parents, they feel like they’re where they belong.

If life has been getting in the way of this, parents might commit to updating some love maps. Start by paying closer attention to how kids spend their time, what they talk about, where they focus their attention — what they care about. Be curious, ask questions, and remember what you learn.

Create new shared rituals. These are positive activities or behaviors that couples, parents, and children regularly engage in together. These rituals may include having dinner together once a week, watching a favorite TV series, exercising together, or kissing each other goodnight.

Shared rituals define a family’s identity. They’re what a spouse talks about when telling others about their marriage or what a child tells others about his or her family.

Shared rituals create a sense of connectedness between family members.

Discuss with your loved ones what new ritual could help create a sense of connectedness in the new year.

Learn something new. Whether it’s a hobby, skill or area of study, learning something new together with a spouse or child is another way to cultivate connectedness. It gives you something to do together and something to have in common.

If learning something new involves taking a class, it’s necessary to carve out time to be together. It’s one other way to strengthen the bond with the people who matter most in your life.

Jon Beaty, counselor and father of two, lives near Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of the book “If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying: 7 Habits for Thriving in Your Faith, Relationships and Work.” This article appeared earlier in LifeZette and has been updated. 

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