This post is all about creating a healthy family relationship.
Relationships are hard. Family relationships are even harder because you have so much history with the people in your family. But, that’s also what makes it so rewarding to create healthier family relationships.
You’re also not alone, which is why this guide exists. These 17 tools will get started in the right direction so that you can focus on the work of changing your family system to make it healthier and more fulfilling for everyone in it.
This post is all about creating a healthy family relationship.
HEALTHY FAMILY RELATIONSHIP:
1. Effective communication
Effective communication starts with listening. Process what the other person is saying. While you listen, acknowledge that you are listening and understand them.
Nod along, give them small words of affirmation like “yes” or “mhm,” and maintain eye contact with the person while they speak. Avoid taking out your phone or getting distracted with something happening around you.
Validate their feelings by telling them that how their feeling makes sense in the context of the situation as they explained it. Once they’re done talking, respond. Keep in mind that you will always have different perspectives than your family member.
So, avoid going into important conversations with the goal of changing their mind. Instead, make them aware of how you’re feeling and acknowledge how they feel so you two can come to a new understanding.
2. Quality time together
Make time for each other. This time is important to bond as a family, talk, and be people who care about each other instead of just people who are related.
Focus on meals together, outings to the movies or mall, and game nights. Find what works for your family and their schedule that everyone enjoys. Depending on how big or distant your family is, it might be difficult to find one activity that everyone will enjoy.
If this is the case, remember two things. First, quality time is what you and your family members make it. Everyone has to go into an activity with the goal and spending time with the people they love. Second, not everyone has to participate in every activity.
3. Respect boundaries
Boundaries are vital to a healthy family relationship. Among friends and siblings, it can be a little easier to create and enforce boundaries that protect you.
When you’re talking to your parents about boundaries, however, it gets complicated. Some parents will probably take this as a threat to their power as your parent. Regardless, it’s important to be vulnerable and tell them that you need some privacy from them.
If this is the first time you’ve talked about boundaries with family members, give them some time to get used to it. Be kind to yourself and to them, while maintaining your boundaries.
4. Express love and appreciation
Let your family members know you value them. Be open and honest about how grateful you are for them and how much you appreciate them. Tell them you love them and, if you’re comfortable, hug them.
Whether or not they show affection towards you, show them you care. This is great time to lead by example without expecting them to reciprocate.
If you’re the child trying to break generational trauma cycles, you can show your parents how loves looks. You can give your family members the gift of seeing other ways to express love and how good it feels to be appreciated.
5. Celebrate achievements
Celebrate with your family members. Show them how proud you are by supporting them and telling them. Plan get-togethers when they graduate or complete a major milestone.
Go for an outing at their favorite restaurant. Let them know that their successes, big or small, are worth celebrating (just like yours!).
Not only does celebrating their achievements make them feel loved by you, but it reminds them that their individual achievements matter. So, encourage them to pursue their passions.
Share the load. Make sure that your mom or maternal figure in the household doesn’t get stuck with all of the chores. If you are that person, then ask for help.
It’s not easy to admit you can’t do it all, but it gets a little easier when you remember that you’re not supposed to do it all. Everyone in your family member can chip in and do some chores around the house to keep it from landing on one person.
Be sure to communicate with your family so that everyone knows what needs to be done and who’s getting it done.
7. Empathy and understanding
The first step towards empathy and understanding is creating a safe space. Without that space, you and your family won’t feel comfortable being honest with each other.
You can only practice empathy and better understand your loved ones when they share their experiences. So, let them know you’re open to listening by sharing your own experiences. Be vulnerable with your family members.
If they open to you, be sure to listen to them. Practice good communication skills so they felt heard. Avoid judging them or their experiences because all you need to do in that moment is respect their experience and let them share it.
8. Conflict resolution strategies
Resolving conflict is the most important skill you can have any relationship. A healthy family relationship is no different because you have to work twice as hard not to bite your sister’s head off when she probably doesn’t deserve it.
For some reason, family members can get us angry and bothered easier than anyone else we know. That’s why we need to remember to apologize and forgive.
It’s not always on us to apologize, but, when it is, we need to. We need to own up to a mistake and be accountable. We also need to recognize when someone else is apologizing to us and we should forgive them.
Rather than getting angry, yelling, and blaming each other, we have to work on find solutions to our conflict.
9. Share family traditions
Family traditions are big. They’re super important when you’re bringing together two families who come from different traditions. So, put time into traditions and do them as family.
Not only do traditions get everyone involved, but they give everyone a sense of belonging together no matter what happens. Family traditions provide families with something they share and only they understand, even if other people have the same tradition.
10. Active involvement
Get involved in your family member. Let each family member know that you’re invested in their life and you’re interested in them. Listen to them when they share something that excites them.
Encourage them to share the things they like to talk about without interrupting them. Bring back those active listening skills and show enthusiasm. This isn’t about faking it no matter how much you don’t care about their interest.
This is about taking an interest in what makes your family member happy.
11. Constructive feedback
It’s hard to give a family member feedback. Whether you’re the oldest child, the parent, or the youngest, you can’t escape the power dynamic going on. There’s also the fact that most people don’t like to be given feedback.
So, think about who you’re giving feedback to and where you stand in the family. Regardless of who has the most power (you or the family member you’re talking to), you’ll want to be kind and respectful.
Let them know what they’re doing well and what you appreciate. Then, let them know what they could be doing better. Maybe they yelled at you unfairly a few days ago and they never apologized. Or they told you they’d do the dishes and stopped halfway through.
Keep the goal in mind: you want to keep your close relationship with them and resolve the issue. Start a conversation with that in mind.
12. Be patient
This process is hard. When you’re rethinking your family relationships and trying to develop healthier habits, it’s difficult. Your family will probably be hostile at first because they will take this personally.
So, be patient and keep that in mind. Remember that your family members each grew up differently and they have different personalities.
You’re talking about improving family dynamics and creating major change in your family system. That’s a lot. Give yourself and family time to understand it and work it out.
13. Support during tough times
Be there for your family. If you’re used to a family that doesn’t express emotions or offer affection, it’s going to feel weird and uncomfortable to comfort family members when they’re struggling.
This is even more true when you’re dealing with something that affects all of you. Instead of closing yourself off or isolating yourself, support your family. Hug them. Tell them their feelings are valid.
When you’re the person who initiates change, it’s really hard to not see that reciprocated. Your family may not hug you back or validate your feelings. It’s okay because you know that your feelings are valid and you’re doing something amazing by supporting your family.
14. Be inclusive
Invite your family to family events. Invite everyone in your family who wants to be there. Promote belonging instead of being choosy and leaving certain people out.
If there are family members who make you uncomfortable or who have hurt you, you can decide to leave them out for your sake. The key is to avoid excluding people to make them feel like they’re not part of the family.
15. Maintain a positive atmosphere
Uplift the people in your home. This means supporting them, celebrating them, and hanging out with them. It also means being you, achieving the stuff you want to achieve, and pursuing your passions.
When you try to change the way your family works by doing anything on this list, you’re going to encounter fear and anger. That’s okay and it’s normal. Take care of yourself and put yourself first.
16. Encourage learning and growth
Support your parent when they want to go back to school. Support your younger sibling when they start college. As important as it is to build a community within your family, you also want to support each person being their own person.
No matter how scared you are that your sibling will fail, support them. Be sure to tell them that you’re worried for them and why, but remember that, to be in their life, you have to support them while they fulfill their goals.
17. Lead by example
You’re doing something incredible by working on your family relationships. It’s easy to continue with what’s familiar even if it’s painful. Remember to take care of yourself as you start this process.
Your family might not like you changing the way you relate to them. And they might take that out on you in ways that aren’t healthy. Just remember that you’re leading by example.
As long as you’re treating family members the way you’d want to be treated, you’re doing the best you can. Stay with it, even if your family doesn’t catch up.