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Is There a Refresh Button for My Family?

Family relationships are formative for our lives and community.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.

“Pooh?” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand.

“I just wanted to be sure of you.”

A.A. Milne

“Holidays with family is when we all get together, emotionally abuse one another, and have pie,” someone described.

Even when extended family gatherings are easier with plenty of alcohol, people continue to spend the money, carve out the time, and make the effort to be there. Why?

Family is designed to be the place where each of us connect and belong. And connecting and belonging is a core need for humans. While always less than perfect, some family relationships are challenging. Yet, despite rugged circumstances, people inherently know what family is supposed to be, and return to the family table holiday after holiday hopeful for the potential rather than seeing the pattern.

For those beginning a family, now is the time to create relationship glue — the reassuring bonds family members can count on. For those who wonder if there is hope for their tenuous family ties, begin today to create a safe place where family members can connect and belong. One person can press the reset button and be a catalyst for refreshing change.

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Because parents have the first access to the deepest place in a child’s heart, how we treat each other is vitally important to the development of each individual and for our family relationships as a whole. Through big and small acts of kindness, respect, and thoughtfulness we extend to one another on a consistent basis in the midst of good times and during the difficult days, family members form relationship glue — those memories, connections, poignant moments, and laughing until milk comes out our nose that shape a shared history and confirmation that we belong. Together.

12 Characteristics of Healthy Family Relationships

Healthy families connect and belong when family members nurture these 12 positive characteristics:

  1. Value and respect one another. Our words and actions are kind.
  2. Communicate openly. Can talk about any topic. There are no secrets.
  3. Listen without interrupting. Hear the other person’s words.
  4. Give unconditional love. Even when family members don’t agree they understand, and are comfortable with, differing opinions.
  5. Trust each other. Secure that confidences are protected, and relationships are unconditional.
  6. Are committed to each other. Stay connected rather than isolating.
  7. Show appreciation and affection. Saying please and thank you are common to daily life.
  8. Pass on solid values. Character qualities including integrity, honesty, honor, and respect are descriptive of family members.
  9. Share a spiritual focus. Believe there is a loving and benevolent God who cares about them.
  10. Have family holidays and traditions. Consistent touch points where family members communicate and celebrate life together.
  11. Pull together in times of stress and crisis. Through communication and companionship, family members navigate challenges.
  12. Exercise calm problem-solving skills. People before things is a motto that reminds family members to be tender with each other through disagreements and adversity.

Strong families do not boast an ideal, problem-free lifestyle. They do handle struggles as a team with the understanding that life is full of the unexpected. Connected families come in all sizes from the single parent to the extended household. No matter the number, you are still a family.

Spell Love L-I-S-T-E-N

There is a reset button for family. That vital refreshment, and even a new beginning, is initiated when I take responsibility for my own emotional healing and then relate in healthy ways with other family members.

To make an immediate positive change in relationships, practice listening. One of the most effective ways to honor and respect another is to listen. We certainly don’t have to agree, but people feel valued when we feel heard.

Think about it, when have you been the most frustrated, hurt, and even angry? How often was the root cause connected to a feeling of not being heard?

Ask questions, be truly interested in another, and listen to what they say. Avoid arguing a point and don’t pressure someone to change how they think or feel. Simply give the gift of respect and value through listening. Connect and belong through truly hearing another’s thoughts, experiences, and heart.

It feels like family.

Rich and full. Connected. Belonging. Rooted.

Creative and messy. Serious and hilariously funny. Deep and witty.

Fruits and vegetables and our famous homemade brownies

and floss your teeth and yes you can stay up fifteen more minutes.

It’s Für Elise played perpetually on the piano;

hot chocolate made with cocoa, honey, cinnamon, and ginger every morning;

dishes piled in the sink because no one puts them in the dishwasher;

mounds of laundry we affectionately refer to as Mt. Never-rest; chalk on the driveway, playing dollhouse, Dutch Blitz marathons, occasional burp-offs,

reading stories aloud, and speaking in movie quotes.

“I feel at ease,” described my daughter.

“We are a mix of Little Women and The Odd Couple,” my teenager observed.

I smile and hold the moment close. We are a family.

Excerpt from Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After By PeggySue Wells

Call To Action

We press the reset button for our family and avoid emotional tension when we change the conversation. Download a list of questions designed to encourage safe dialog at family gatherings or during one-on-one discussions.

PeggySue Wells talks more on this topic in her books, Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After and The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make.

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Meet PeggySue

We’ve heard of soccer moms and stage mothers. I’m a writer who trailers my kids and horses across the nation. My Apple computer, fondly christened MacBeth, is the essential I bring along.