I watched a movie the other day called “The Perfect Family” and it got me thinking… Families are very different these days but whether they are made up of a mom and a dad, two moms, two dads, single moms and single dads, one thing remains the same: the need to protect and safeguard our families is still as strong as ever.
Families are the building blocks of societies and a strong family structure is beneficial to the human race. But how do we achieve this? I believe there are a number of things that we can do to shield and nurture our families:
1. Make family time a priority…
Whether it’s to sit and play a game with the children or take the dog for a walk or to simply spend time watching the clouds go by. Do this often and without interruptions by technology. Parents, put your phones away and don’t be distracted from the task at hand – which is to make meaningful connections with your family members.
2. Listen to what your children are telling you…
Even when it’s a long, sometimes boring story. They are giving you a glimpse into their world and they expect you to take them seriously. Don’t talk over them, talk with them.
3. Make provision for connection
There are a few golden moments during the day when kids will chat about what has happened to them. One of these is often around the dinner table. This is the ideal time to open the lines of communication. Another golden moment is often at bedtime. As they drift off to sleep, they may allow you a glimpse into their world.
4. Model patience and tolerance to your children
Remember that children watch us very carefully and learn much more from what we do than from what we say. Children can spot a hypocrite from a great distance.
“…the need to protect and safeguard our families is still as strong as ever.”
5. Manage your stress levels
Stressed parents often cause stressed children because they pick up on our emotional states – sometimes even before we are aware of them ourselves.
6. Be a lifelong learner
Our children have so much to teach us, but we must be prepared to learn from them. It’s our job to make sure that our children know that they are wanted, loved and respected, that they can talk to us about their feelings and that we can help them work through any challenges they may face.
7. Create memories
Cultivate family rituals that are special to your family. It may be that for birthdays the birthday child gets a cupcake for breakfast in bed or perhaps Tuesday nights are pizza nights. There are many things that your family can do which makes them different from all other families. Once again, this forms bonds which lead to connection, the cornerstone of a healthy family. Routines and rituals give families a sense of identity and help establish important values.
8. Give back to the community
Allowing our children to take part in acts of selflessness encourages them to develop empathy, see what it’s like to be different and develop a spirit of generosity. All of these lead to greater emotional maturity and foster a sense of community and connectedness.
It takes time to grow a family, and while there is no such thing as a perfect family, there is the good-enough (or perfect-ish) family. And many good-enough families are just what the world needs right now.
Written by Eileen Rossouw, counselling psychologist at CentaPaeds