Love and relationships, they form the backbone of a strong family and can bring us joy and heartache in equal measure.
Family life can be busy, it can be loud and let’s face it, some days it can be downright challenging!
A robust family bond will give you all a sense of belonging, but you do have to work at it! It’s not always a game of happy families; real life brings disagreements and differences of opinion, it brings hectic days and sometimes feels a bit like mission impossible.
Families can span generations and contain a huge melting pot of personalities, keeping up with everyone (and trying to please everyone) isn’t easy.
Close Family Vs Extended Family
Do you make a distinction between “close” family members and those you would describe as “extended” family?
You might consider your close family as those you share your home with, such as your partner and children.
“Close” family may also include the family members you see on a regular basis or have a strong relationship with, such as your parents and siblings.
These are often the key family members in your life, the people you can turn to for care and support, the people who love you unconditionally and who you love in the same way.
Then there’s cousins, aunties, uncles, godchildren and step-families to consider, along with the friends you’ve known forever (who may as well be family). No wonder it’s hard to keep up with everyone!
Some of us have relationships with non-humans too…not aliens from the planet Zarg but many of us have a special place in our hearts for four-legged, fluffy, feathered, furry or scaly family members who share our homes. Let’s be honest, some of us prefer our pets to certain relatives (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone)!
Conflict and families go together like coffee and cream
It’s fair to say that, because of the size of our families (close and extended), relationships aren’t always straightforward.
Fall-outs can affect an entire family, sending ripples throughout it.
So let’s deal with fall-outs…
Have you fallen out with anyone recently? Do you regret it? Do you feel there is a gap that needs to be bridged between you and a loved one?
Rekindle those relationship ties by finding some common ground. Don’t dwell on the past – just get back in touch!
Base your relationship goals on what you want to achieve in the future, not what has already gone!
If this situation sounds familiar to you, read this story about two brothers and a carpenter…
Start with your immediate family, think about the bond you have with those who share your home.
Are you happy? Are they happy?
Do you think your relationship is successful? Do they think your relationship is successful?
If not, fix it now!
Even the answer to these questions is yes, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to relationships, after all life is about growth, development and learning through your experiences. So, let’s explore how you can avoid conflicts, strengthen your family bond and build a strong family…
Work on avoiding conflict
Just because conflict is considered part and parcel of family life, you don’t have to actively seek it out.
It’s better to enjoy time with your loved ones than to play peacemaker or contribute to a big row! You need to learn how to get along and relax together.
This might need some work but don’t be put off, there are options…
Meditating together can be useful but children may find that a little too much, or would they?…
Sometimes removing yourself from a potentially pressurised situation can also help to diffuse it. If you feel your hackles rising, take a moment (and a few deep breaths), de-stress and find your calm.
Although meditating, removing yourself and using breathing techniques may help avoid conflicts, the key to such situations is to manage your mental state and control your ego!
Try to put things into perspective, what is the conflict about? Does war really need to break out over the TV remote?
This video from the Black Country Buddhas (podcast 3 on happiness) will give you all the tools you need for dealing with petty family conflicts…
The main thing to remember is that engaging in an argument means you are being controlled by your ego. Winners rise above this and can control their emotions.
The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.
Having an argument feeds the fire and will result in one of two outcomes – you will come off better and the other person will feel chastened or hard done by, or you will come off worse and the other person will have fortified their position (even if they are not in the right)!
The solution? Don’t engage; instead, diffuse!
Develop a strong family bond
There are numerous ways you can improve relationships but the chances are you can’t do it alone! One word that crops up time and time again is “together.”
Being a family is all about doing things together, enjoying time together and just being together. You don’t have to spend every waking minute in one another’s pockets but there are plenty of things you should enjoy as a family.
The key is to make time for one another and when you’re together, actually be together! This means stepping away from the tech! We know it’s hard but mobiles, tablets and lap tops are not conducive to quality family time!
It’s funny how we are more connected than ever, yet somewhat less connected. Don’t be that family who sit at the dinner table on their phones! Interact on an emotional level – promote human connection in your home!
There are even apps out there that will shut your phone down to allow you and the family to be productive without the temptation of looking at the distracting device!
There are many avenues you could explore together as a family – tap into your creative side and build something together, make music together or create art together.
Even simply playing a game together can strengthen the bond within your family.
Eating together is something that many societies encourage. This can even include cooking family meals together too. Kids often cherish the chance to wash veggies, stir mixtures and decorate puddings! Although there might be a little mess, their education and the fun it brings will all be worth it!
Sitting down together to eat at the table a couple of times a week offers the chance for decent conversation and the opportunity to share news, opinions and maybe even love advice to emotional teenagers!
After dinner grab your coats and head out for a walk, enjoy the fresh air and if you have a dog, even better!
Exercising together improves fitness and also helps with relationship building. You could even consider finding a hobby – maybe you could all go swimming or join a martial arts class?
If you have kids, make sure you also save some time for the grown-ups! Ditch the TV, enjoy a cuddle, pour a glass of wine and ask your other half how he/she is doing. Try and remember that you had a life before the kids – learn how to foster that loving relationship once again. Here’s a thought – you could even have sex – beats watching the same old soaps any day!
The most important thing is to acknowledge and value one another. It’s easy to take family for granted and only make time when absolutely necessary (usually Christmas or birthdays), but why wait for a special occasion?
Be grateful for one another and embrace one another at every opportunity.
Can I set my own relationship goals?
Of course you can! Your relationship, your goals!
Love and relationships need to be constantly nurtured, so focussing on relationships at home first should be your primary goal!
A strong family can get through anything so set your sights on strengthening that all-important family bond.
We would love to hear about your own experiences and your ideas for improving family relationships
We can’t wait to read your comments!