November is the month of family gatherings and happy times around a bountiful table. Does the thought of family gatherings put a smile on your face, or does it make you cringe?
In his book Thrive, Dr. Seligman, the father of positive psychology, identifies five areas that have the highest impact on our happiness, with positive relationships being number one.
Developing positive family relationships is worth every effort. Who doesn’t want to feel the loving and warm embrace of a supporting, understanding, and accepting family? Not only is it enjoyable to have strong relationships and connections, but positive family relationships are essential for many reasons. One of the most important is that children who feel loved and safe develop a sense of security that allows them to explore their world confidently, try new things, learn, and build healthy relationships of their own. Strong families grow from love, security, communication, connection, routines, and respect of developmentally appropriate rules.
Here are 5 ways to create a connected family.
- Quality time and family relationships
Quality time is about making the most of your time with each other in your daily life. Vacations and special events are wonderful connectors, but the ongoing daily connection establishes the foundation of the relationships. Use your every day to connect by using kind words, being present at the moment share a heartfelt smile, warm encouraging eye contact, and a good laugh.
Prioritize and schedule time together in a way that fits into your life; if having dinner together every evening is not possible for your family, decide and commit together to make having a few meals per week together a reality.
- Positive communications and family relationships
Positive communication is about listening without judgment and expressing your thoughts and feelings openly and respectfully. When people feel understood, respected, and valued, their relationships grow stronger.
Positive communication also includes respecting someone’s desire not to talk; as children move towards their teenage years, they often need more privacy.
- Positive non-verbal communication
It is essential to pay attention to the feelings that children and partners express non-verbally; it is also important to be aware of our non-verbal messages.
- Teamwork and family relationships
Clear expectations, limits, and boundaries promote understanding and help establish a sense of belonging, allowing a family to work as a team. Always consider your child’s abilities, maturity, and development in making appropriate decisions. Including the children in decision-making about family rules, family activities, and holidays can give everyone a sense of ownership and buy-in. Parents and caregivers can model listening, thinking calmy, finding constructive solutions, and work towards compromises.
- Appreciation for each other and family relationships.
At the heart of a good family, relationships are accepting and valuing each other, practicing empathy, and modeling compassion, love, and self-care. When we practice what we preach, we provide our children with a roadmap that can be their blueprint for establishing solid and fulfilling relationships with others.
Families show appreciation by taking a genuine interest in each other’s lives and by being present. Sharing family stories and memories helps children understand things that are not obvious and reinforces feelings of belonging and appreciation.
Acknowledging each other’s differences, talents, and abilities and reinforcing positive behaviors also promote connection and appreciation.
Positive family relationships give us the foundation of emotional safety and security, which are essential in not only creating and developing long-lasting and fulfilling relationships but in providing resiliency, hope, and optimism, all of which can support us through the trials and tribulations of any challenge.
Marina Blalock AMFT