Seven Ideas that Create a Strong Family that Works Together
The family that children grow up in is one of the most important parts of their lives, whether that is a family with two biological parents, a single parent family or a blended family.
How the family gets on and functions have a huge impact on how the children will handle their teenage years up until their adulthood. It is also likely to highly influence the way they raise their own families in the future.
A loving, caring and calm family leads to happy children with good self-esteem. Low self-esteem leads to a range of issues and problems. Even if the child does not get into specific trouble, low self-esteem can often be mistakenly interpreted as a big ego – the lower the self-esteem, the bigger the ego.
Unfortunately, parents do not often realise what is creating an unhappy or dysfunctional family. It may be the way they speak to each other, or about others. New couples can be so wrapped up with each other that they miss what is happening inside a young person or new siblings may have very different values or views that can create huge tension between impressionable youngsters.
To help bond a family and create a high functioning family, here are some ideas that if implemented should help yours to work well together:
Idea 1: Make time for talking AND listening
- As often as you can, find the time to create conversations with your children.
- Talk about what you have both done during the day, what your interests are, what is happening in the news, school, community etc. Encourage opinion and, above all do not judge or negatively comment on their views but maybe introduce a wider perspective.
- Encourage the expression of a wide range of emotions (excitement, fear, frustration, cheekiness etc.)
- Listen to what the children are trying to say even if they don’t quite get the words right, listen to the sentiment more than the words.
- Actively avoid temptation to be sarcastic, negative or put downs
- Have adults-only quality time (date nights) to ensure that you stay close, this way when you are with the family you can focus on them and things flow.
Idea 2: Encourage affection, caring and support
- Appreciate each other and show it, above all be caring and kind.
- Cuddles, hugs and holding hands without embarrassment encourage healthy contact.
- Tell them you love them; don’t expect them to guess it. Let them know all the things you love about them.
- Make the well-being of the family a priority.
- Engender loyalty between siblings and with the adults.
- Resilience grows for those with positive attitudes and faith that they will be supported at difficult times.
Idea 3: Make family time
- Plan specific times to discuss things that affect the whole family. Sometimes the term ‘family meeting’ is a bit confrontational for children, so soften it a bit.
- Organise simple family outings e.g. beach, park, free events
- Make your time together fun, e.g. play board games (Pictionary, taboo etc.), movie evening (comedy), a shared activity such as kite flying, rock climbing.
- Have a meal together that one of the children picks. Make sure it is technology-free (and that includes you too).
- Watch or play a sport together, even if it is only miniature golf.
Idea 4: Accept that each child has different personalities and values
- Even though you may all be from the same family there can be quite different personalities, interests and behaviours. Recognise each one for who they are, and their own uniqueness.
- Celebrate the differences and encourage individuality.
- If one is particularly talented let them be excited, but not to overshadow the achievements of the other children.
- Never leave someone out, even though they may not want to fit in, or may be deliberately difficult. The child who is hardest to love, often needs it the most.
Idea 5: Share chores and responsibilities
- Include children in decisions that impacts what happens to the family.
- Too much control by adults can be destructive, especially if accompanied by intimidation. Be wise in your use of your power.
- Share the chores fairly across the family based on size, maturity and abilities. Where possible try to link to interests or skills so that, whilst it is not easy, try to make the chores as fun as possible so there is less resistance.
- Start the routine of doing chores as early as possible in young children so they are used to contributing.
- To help the children feel secure, create daily routines.
Idea 6: Family rituals and traditions
- Create rituals and traditions that the children will remember. If a blended family, try to incorporate traditions from both sides that appeal to everyone, especially for Christmas and other special holidays.
- Incorporate small daily rituals like bedtime stories or weekend breakfasts
- Recognise birthdays and special days equally, and in a manner that is meaningful for each family member.
Idea 7: Have a wider family for support (even if they may not be blood relatives)
- Nothing is ever missing, so if your real family are long distance, create friendship groups that can substitute your own.
- Be part of a community or interest group
- Build trust and respect with your wider family so there is outside support to turn to at difficult times.
- Don’t gossip or discuss sensitive details in front of family and friends that will cause family members’ embarrassment.
Author and experienced relationship coach, Gillian Andale is the owner of Love2Last, a coaching and resource centre dedicated to couples who have found love again, want a new beginning and aim to strengthen and grow their relationship as well as need help in blended family situations. Visit www.love2last.co to browse and see the wealth of information available.