a special feature by Kay & Leslie, founders grandparentslink.com
There’s nothing like family. The people we’re related to by blood and marriage are expected to be our closest allies, our greatest sources of love and support. Too often, however, our interactions with family are filled with misunderstanding and resentment, bickering and badgering. Those we should know and be known by best, end up feeling like adversaries or strangers. Here are some tips on ways to keep your family dynamics and relationships healthier and happier!
1. Listen if you expect to be heard. Lack of communication is the loudest complaint in most families. The answer to “why won’t they listen to me?” may be simply “you’re not listening to them.”
2. Teach emotional choice. Manage your moods by letting all feelings be okay, but not all behaviors. Model behavior that respects and encourages the feelings and rights of others, yet make it clear that we have a choice about what to do with what we feel.
3. Take responsibility for what you communicate silently. The very young and old are especially sensitive to nonverbal cues. More than our words, tone of voice, posture (body language), and facial expressions convey our feelings. We have to listen to our tone of voice and look at ourselves in pictures and in the mirror to assess our emotional congruency. Loving words coming through clenched teeth don’t feel loving. They feel confusing.
4. Don’t try to solve problems for your loved ones. Caring for your family doesn’t mean taking charge of their problems, giving unsolicited advice, or protecting them from their own emotions. Let them know their own strengths and allow them to ask you for what they need.
5. Make a lasting impression through actions. Your values will be communicated by your actions, no matter what you say. Be an example, not a nag.
6. Be generous in expressing love. Everyone in a family (especially young children) needs the emotional reassurance of loving words, gestures, and looks. Those who demand the least emotional attention may need it most.