3 Steps To a Better Family Life

Improving the family unit step by step.

Family 21st Dec, 2020

Family is wonderful, complicated, critical, supportive and everything in between. They can be the mainstay of your life and best friends, the thorn in your side, or both. The important thing to understand is that all family relationships are complex.

Whether they are the people who stood by you in your darkest hour, or the people who contributed to a difficult time, there are 3 steps you can take to begin the process of improving your family life. All families are unique but these steps could really make a difference.

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Reassess Your Family Viewpoint:

The highly annoying and frustrating phrase “don’t take it personally” can occur in a variety of work, home and broader circumstances, but if you don’t know how to, they may cause more harm than good. Here are some ideas to start the process of understanding.

We are all guilty of repeating the same old lines: “I’m tired” “I’m too tired to work” at work, home, en route, or during post-meal lethargy. The stories you tell yourself can affect how you respond to people. If you have been telling yourself that when you get home you are going to be in trouble, it can set you automatically on the defensive and make you see a confrontation that may not be there. When you know this, you can recognise the story, catch yourself saying it and ignore it carrying on with your day feeling refreshed. Start small, try and catch yourself thinking ‘I’m tired’ in the morning or ‘I’m hungry’ after a meal. Then look for the other stories you could be telling yourself like ‘I’m stubborn’, ‘People are not capable of changing’, the list is endless.

Once you start to recognise your own stories, you may see that everyone has them and therefore actions based on their stories have nothing to do with you. This could, in time, help you stop taking your family’s words and actions personally. Words meant to be helpful, that may once have hurt you, can be filtered through the knowledge that they could be a result of a story your parent/sibling has been telling themselves all day. Nothing to do with you at all. This holds true even when your actions or words are cited as the cause of a disagreement. Knowing that could change your response and therefore a debate that would once have spiralled to a fight remains a healthy conversation.


Compromise:

This is a mainstay of any relationship. Sometimes though, our family can make us dig our heels in, or have dug their own heels in. Learning to compromise, on both sides, can be very important.

Start with how often you see your parents/siblings. Set boundaries if you need to, but negotiate with your family so they can see it’s a mutual decision. Perhaps you could spend Christmas/Eid/Hanukkah with your family one year and with your friends/partner/partners’ family the next. If you are in a relationship, a three year cycle of family/partner’s family/just the two of you may work for you. Now you have one compromise in place, you can work on others.


Compassion:

Any healthy relationship thrives on compassion. This includes your relationship with yourself. When you learn to recognise your stories and either ignore or address them, you may find you don’t get angry as often. Add in being kind to yourself and compassion for others could follow. This does not mean that you should become the person who fixes everything, or rolls over and agrees with whatever your parents/siblings say. It may, however, help your interactions with family become less fraught and more relaxing. Remember that improving family relationships does not have to always be hard work. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is give others, and yourself, time to think things through and understand what they/you really need from the relationship, then you can work together to move forward.

Family life is a funny thing, it can lead to great joy and deep sorrow. There is no magic wand to change parents and siblings, or the past, and nor do you need one. By following the steps above you could end up with a more healthy relationship, for both you and your family.

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