by: Aaron Shaner, LAMFT, LAPC
In the first installment of this series, Building Strong Family Relationships Part 1, I introduced four traits of strong families that you and your family can put renewed investment and emphasis on as the new school year is beginning. The first four traits discussed were: True and Tenacious, Tranquility, Transparency, and Tenderness. Each of these traits reflects an individual’s inner state of being. Each trait is a decision that you and I make about who we are going to be at the core of our identity. The next group of traits moves outward from an individual’s inner state of being and describes the family’s “inner state.”
The “inner state” of a family is seen in the small and subtle things that happen. You might even miss them if you weren’t looking closely. All twelve traits on this list builds on the one before it. Just as an individual’s inner state provides the foundation on which the family environment can exist, the family environment provides the basis on which the family interacts with the outside world. Let’s look at the first of these traits.
There is often talk about spending quality time with those that you love. There are books, websites, Pintrest pins and Facebook posts devoted to how you can create quality time with your family. The trait of time, however, does not put the focus on quality. Sure, quality time is important, but you cannot schedule quality time. Quality time flows out of, well, just time. Instead, place importance on quantity. Even as little as 30 minutes to an hour on a week day and 2-3 hours on the weekend will have great positive impact on your family. The more time you spend together with your family, the increased potential for quality time. But beware, quality time is spontaneous and will happen before you realize it.
Talk, like the other three traits that follow time, is observed in strong families who place an importance on spending ample amounts of time together. I know sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to get your children to talk to you about their day, but this problem is alleviated when the time your family spends together increases. Beneficial talk takes place on many levels. While daily reports are good, go deeper in your conversations and cover topics such as feelings, thoughts, and opinions. As a parent, you set the example for your kids when you are open about your own feelings, thoughts, and opinions. When you are communicating to your family that it is safe for them to do so as well.
Many years ago, research began to come out that identified the need for infants to be held in order to have healthy psychological development. By and large we all enjoy holding and showing physical affection to our children when they are in the earliest stages of development. Health touch, however, is important throughout the lifespan. One of the best reasons to model healthy physical touch with your kids is to help them learn to discern what is appropriate touch and what is not. As we age, touch continues to be important for healthy psychological development. Hormones, such as dopamine, are released in our brains when our skin is touched contributing to lower levels of stress and depression; creating a healthier state of being.
We often recognize big accomplishments and efforts of those in our family and tend to miss giving praise for the smaller things. A large indicator of family resiliency when times get tough is being able to express thankfulness for family, acknowledging good efforts and attitudes, and being able to honor people in your family regardless of performance. The key to this trait is learning to show recognition for the individual over one’s abilities.
Bob Benson wrote a poem entitled, “Laughter in the Walls.” In the poem, he dreams about the good times that his family enjoys in his home, and as his family grows older his home begins to resonate all of his family’s memories. Is your home a place where your family can enjoy themselves in positive and healthy ways? In order to foster this environment, take an interest in each member of the family, play games together, and most of all laugh together. Having these types of positive family experiences will decrease stress in your home and anchor the values you want your children to learn.
I hope that this new school year brings many opportunities for your family to enjoy each other, honor each other and laugh together. In our final installment we’ll finish up the list of the twelve habits that build strong families. We will be looking at teamwork, training, and teaching. Have a great start to the school year!