How to get strengthening families relationship

One key to an emotionally healthy life is having the support of a strong, supportive family. A strong family may be as small as two people or as large as a kinship network of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The size of the family, indeed the composition of the family, does not matter as much as the feeling of belonging and the sense of sustenance that emerges from living with stable familial support. People seem to do better in life when they have the feeling of belonging to something larger, and stronger, than they are individually. It helps in eliminating uncertainty from the stresses of everyday living.

The family has undergone many changes over recent decades, due mainly to major social and cultural changes. When life was mainly agriculturally based or when immigrants came to a new land, the traditional family was able to thrive. We looked to our kin for support and they were there for us. The decades since the middle of the twentieth century have seen a steady unraveling of this bygone ideal. It is difficult to describe precisely what caused this change. It may have been such factors as social security (the government, rather than children, could take care of people when they grew old). Or the automobile and modern roads (people were no longer confined to one location any longer – family members could move away). Or was it television? Computers and electronic data transmission? Improved communication technology? The high divorce rate? What we do know is that families today find it more difficult, due to competing demands from the larger world, to spend time together, to feel committed to each other, to communicate with each other, to share spiritual values and to cope with crises together. Some families, however, seem to have overcome these threats to a strong and thriving family life.

An ongoing research project conducted by Dr. Nick Stinnett at the University of Nebraska has aimed to identify the characteristics of strong families around the world. Stinnett and his colleagues since 1974 have surveyed over 3,000 families, about 80% of whom were from the United States and 20% from other parts of the world. About thirty percent were rural and 70% urban. The participants represented different economic levels, racial/ethnic classifications, age groups, religions and educational levels. In spite of cultural, political and language differences, strong families had similar characteristics.

Here are the six qualities shared by strong families:

A Sense of Commitment to the Family

A commitment is a pledge or a promise. Applied to family life, it is a sense of responsibility or duty to the family that overrides temporary conflicts or times of crisis. Members of strong families take their familial commitment seriously. It is conscious, unwavering and unconditional. Strong families are not immune to the problems faced by everyone else in modern times – they too face hectic days, financial difficulties, demanding work hours, marital infidelity, and illness. In strong families, however, commitment implies that family members help each other out during hard times. They make the family relationship a priority, even if it means sacrificing personal wants, activities outside of the family, or work demands. At the core of sacrificing for the family is the idea of putting the interests of others ahead of one’s own – a notion that reflects moral values and integrity.

Try these things:

Arrange a family council for an hour once a month. Discuss your family goals, what you are doing to meet them, and what needs to be worked on. Listen to each other’s ideas rather than condemning them. Encourage free, open and accepting communication.

If everyone in the family is too busy with outside activities, rearrange schedules so that more time can be spent together with the family. Or have each family member agree to give up one outside activity.

Designate a wall in the house as the “family wall.” Decorate it with photos, souvenirs, and family mementos.

Make a record of the family history in a photo album, identifying dates, places and special events.

Showing Appreciation and Building Self-Esteem

Healthy families share in common the ability to show appreciation to each other. By showing appreciation, we are essentially saying that the other person is worthy and has dignity. We are declaring that we can see the positive qualities of the other person. This message is crucial to emotional wellness because it is a core building block of self-esteem. Thus, strong families help to build healthy personalities. Parents and siblings have a strong influence in molding children to see themselves as either good or bad. When a person’s self-definition is characterized by negative self-esteem, he or she has difficulty both in acknowledging positive feedback and in giving it. Strong families cherish their members, show that they are valued, and build self-esteem in their members that can be carried on to the next generation.

Try these things:

 Set a goal of giving each family member at least one compliment per day.

Create a positive home environment by reframing negative statements into positive ones (instead of saying, “You are always trying to control me,” say “I like how you are concerned about my well-being all the time”).

Write down ten things you like about each member of your family – and then show them your list.

Sharing Positive Communication

One research study has shown that the average couple spends seventeen minutes per week in conversation. In contrast, strong families spend a great deal of time talking with one another  ranging from trivial matters to important issues. Communication helps us to feel connected, and because members of strong families feel free to exchange information and ideas, they become good problem solvers. Some families set aside time for family council meetings and others do their talking over the dinner table each night. Most communication in these families, however, is spontaneous. Positive communication involves both talking and listening.

Try these things:

Designate a time for the family to share the events of the day (for example, at dinner). Avoid disciplining and negative remarks during this time.

Look objectively at your communication patterns and determine which ones can be improved (for example, using sarcasm, creating crises, cutting off someone else who is speaking). Work on one communication habit for a month. Then, the next month, work on another.