by: Aaron Shaner, LAMFT, LAPC
In this final installment of Building Strong Families (get Part 1 or Part 2), the family traits of Teamwork, Teaching, and Training focus on how our interacts with the world outside the family. If you will recall, this list started with the traits of a healthy individual. These qualities (True and Tenacious, Tranquility, Transparency, and Tenderness) are ones which each person works on inside themselves. The second group of traits in this list are qualities that define a families values and environment (Time, Talk, Touch, Tributes and Tickles). In this installment, we will talk about the final subset of this list which builds on the first two. This list builds in the following way: healthy individuals are the foundation for a healthy home, which in turn produces healthy community members. Let’s take a look at this final group of family best practices.
Life is not intended to be lived alone. Everyday challenges as well as monumental ones are made easier when we have the collective strength of those around us. Not all challenges are threatening however, facing healthy challenges such as setting worthy goals develops a sense of mastery in our families. A sense of mastery or a belief that “I can do it,” is important to healthy psychological development. When we set healthy goals it equips our families with the belief that together we can be successful in the future. Families who share adventures and learn new skills together are more resilient when the rain comes.
Teaching is about preparing our families to be open to new information and and passing on our interests and passions to the next generation. Teaching is as much about spending time with your family as it is about learning new skills. Teaching is the principle that drives you to help your kids explore the outside world and have new knowledge influence who they are. Instilling life-long learning prepares them for the future.
Everyday we have moments that can be used to train our families about what we value and how to handle challenges. Author and researcher Brené Brown says that, “the most powerful teaching moments are one’s where you screw up.” It’s one thing to tell your kids about lessons you have learned but it is more powerful if they can watch the process. Training, as opposed to teaching, is about who they are on the inside. As a blacksmith practices his craft, there is metal on metal contact, heath, quick temperature changes, pounding and often sparks.
If you have been following this series you may have noticed that each sub-group of this list builds on the previous one. You may have also noticed that the list cycles back on itself. Healthy individuals are needed to have healthy families, healthy families create healthy communities, and in turn healthy communities foster healthy individuals. Said differently, the first trait of True and Tenacious in this list is about who we are and also one of the values we want to train our children to have. As adults when we become the people we want our children to be we encourage them to be a healthy individual too.
If you’re wondering where to start applying these concepts for you and your family, you are not alone. I have been encouraged by the growing tide of families who want to turn things around and make positive changes. To start, begin with the things that only you can control. Recognizing that somethings are out of your control will help you from feeling overwhelmed and allow others in your family to take responsibility for their own change. the second step to emphasize is– go slow. Change takes time, resist the temptation to get discouraged if it is not happening at the pace you would like. The bottom line with making these changes is that it all starts with you. By addressing your own areas for improvement you are taking the first step towards being True/Tenacious.
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!