Painting The “Family Portrait”: Working At Maintaining A Solid And Caring Unit

A strong family unit appears to be a difficult thing to attain these days. While so many people operate with the idea that family comes first, it’s surprising how few people work hard at making this unit strong.

If we have young children, we have the perfect opportunity in life to nurture them and to structure their beliefs so that they are headstrong, but that we can all cooperate well as a family. In some ways, the rules are simple, but what does it take to really make a family work together and stay solid?  

Dedication To See Things Through

The overwhelming statistic that approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce highlights the fact that either couples just don’t get on as much anymore, or they’ve not done everything in their power to make the relationship work.

There are so many children of divorce now it’s almost become the new normal. Getting the family law lawyers involved should be the last resort. This is something that we’ve got to learn as parents, being able to see things through. The reason we’ve got to push at this attitude is not just for the fact that we will raise help your children as a result, but it will benefit us as parents.

As life throws numerous problems, the parent that continually says “I give up” or “I can’t do it” are sending a message to their children that this is okay. As parents, we need to lead by example and it’s so easy to see that if our children have a behavioral problem or a bad attitude, to blame it on them and assume “that’s just the way they are”. But, we have to work at solving the problems as a family. It’s so easy to apportion blame these days, but if we can’t help our own children, who will?

 

Open And Honest Communication

A strong family unit communicates effectively. We’ve all got our own opinions of what the “perfect” family unit is. But let’s get one thing out of the way, the perfect family unit doesn’t exist. Every family has disagreements and battles, and this is something we’ve got to come to terms with early on.

But if these battles are a result of poor communication, or not expressing ourselves effectively, resentment rides high. We find it easier to mask certain emotions, and if we’ve got children, our instinct is to protect them from things we perceive to be dangerous or damaging.

Take grief for example; when something happens, we may feel the temptation to shield our children from the sadness. But if we continually do this throughout life because we think we’re doing them a favor, they’re not going to be able to cope when they encounter grief on their own terms. If you have a family pet, and it passes away, a lot of families would tend to say that it “went next door”, but is this sugar coating it too much?

Having open communication about the things in life that are difficult won’t just help your children to deal with these problems in a healthy manner but it communicates to them that you are there for them in the best way. It is such a difficult thing to get right because our instinct to protect our children can override any common sense. Learning how to be open isn’t just about what we say, but it’s about how we are. This is something that we can learn how to do over time.

 

An Encouraging Environment

We either do what our parents did to us or the polar opposite in terms of our parenting styles and attitudes. Maybe we had a flair for art when we were younger, but one comment upset us and put us off it for life. As a result, we probably made a pact with ourselves to encourage our children in everything that they do.

But encouraging our children isn’t just about positive reinforcement and saying that they can do anything they put their mind to, it’s about making it part of their core belief system. An encouraging environment is a very difficult thing to attain, especially when children are young and impressionable that if you tell them “no” to drawing on the table they could associate drawing with being naughty.

And this is where respectful boundaries come into play. We need to encourage expression but within reason. This can sound like a contradiction in terms, but the balance is a very delicate one to get right. The best way to ensure they are expressing themselves, but not being naughty or disrespectful, is to explain why they should do something or not do something.

So many parents use the expression “because I said so” when a child asks why they’re not allowed to do something. Does this put across the right message? After a while, this approach to shutting them down becomes irrelevant and doesn’t teach them the consequences of their actions. The battle between boundary and expression is a constant one, unfortunately.

 

The Power Of Play

While we can have a stereotypical impression of what a strong family unit entails, we still need to work at getting along and learning to laugh. A very rigid family unit is not able to communicate effectively. If you’ve got young children, and you don’t get on the floor and play with them because you’ve come up with some excuse, your children aren’t going to get the impression that you’re all in it together.

Children love the fact that you get on the floor and play with them, but so many people don’t do it because it’s “childish”. If you really want to have a family that is open and honest, you’d better start playing! Playing is one of those simple things that aren’t just great for the kids because they have a lot of fun (not to mention exercise), but it is a great relaxation tool for you. In life, we can be quite serious, and worry about the numerous components of living that, many years from now, won’t mean a thing.

We can learn a lot from our children by just hanging around with them and enjoying the simple things. After all, if you want to look at it from a health perspective, playing games in the garden with the kids is a great stress reliever, and gets you up and about. If you want your children to feel that they have parents involved in their life, this is a little thing that you can do from the very start.

 

Making Time

There’s no time for anything anymore. And if you are so busy, and you continually use the “B-word”, what message is this sending children? If you haven’t got time for them at all, they going to grow up thinking you will never have time for them, and they will start to find their own things to keep them occupied. After a while, they’ll grow up, move out, go to university, and they’ll forge their own life, and you might not be as involved in this as you’d like.

To fix this, if you don’t have the time, you should make it. We’ve all got things we need to do in life, and the never-ending pile of life admin can threaten to make sure we don’t speak much to our children ever. If we have a job, and our children go to breakfast club as well as after-school club, and we only see them for a couple of hours a day, at which point, we’re busy making food, and need to relax ourselves, understandably, this puts the message across to the children that their parents are always busy.

Fast forward 30 or so years- will you be happy you did that much work? It’s unlikely. No matter how little time you have in life, make sure that it’s good quality time with the children. It’s always quantity over quality. And even then, if you’re still hanging on to the idea of a solid family unit, when you make the most of your time together, it will be effortless.

 

It takes a lot of work. And now, we have so many distractions we can really struggle to see our children throughout the week. But even those people that work away can still be caring and attentive parents despite the distance. If you want to have a family unit that’s solid, communicative, works together, and plays together, you need to put in the effort.

In addition to this, you need to learn how to lead by example and realize that you’re not on a time limit. The earlier we put things in place, the better, but just because our children are a bit older and know their own mind, doesn’t mean we can’t make amends right now, and we can start with the little things, like eating together (more on this in the video below).

Some would argue that the stereotypical family unit doesn’t exist anymore, but if we have children, and we want to have an effective relationship with them, it doesn’t matter how many parents are involved, what matters is that everyone feels loved.

 

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About Author

Jamie Sorenson

Jamie Sorenson is a freelance writer with a Masters in Communications from Quinnipiac. An aspiring screenplay writer, Jamie freelances for many media outlets.

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