- Family and Parenting
Family Counseling Tips From a 2-Year-Old
Best Relationship Advice Didn't Come From Family Therapy
Stronger relationships are made by developing bonds within the family unit. You don't need family counseling or family therapy to know this - as my Granny would say, "it's just common sense."
These bonds are a sort of "family glue" that holds a family together through all sorts of good times and bad times. I don't want to sound trite or smarmy but I hope you will read this article and decide to tell the people around you how you truly feel about them before it's too late. Family is so very precious and you should tell them how you feel - never assume they know you love them.
Family Counseling Tip: Be the "Family Glue"
If you're reading this and you have decided to take a proactive approach to bringing your family together, I have to say you are a truly unique person. This may be the most difficult and also the most rewarding experience you have ever undertaken.
Now, my family is far from perfect but we have learned a few things about keeping the family together and maintaining strong familial ties no matter what happens, in spite of what someone has done and irregardless of who they have become. Being the family glue means looking past those things for now and actively creating bonds that are strong enough to hold together in the toughest times.
Here are a few family counseling tips that have helped keep our family strong...
Family First Always
I just love looking at that family photo there to the right. As you look at the faces, try and think of who these people were, what they did each day, how they worked at staying together as a family. They had problems, shared good times and bad - but somehow stayed together.
If you look carefully, you'll see some members are looking in other directions. Families are sort of like that - everyone going a different direction but still able to come together on occasion - even of it's just to sit for a photo.
It's vital for a healthy, close family to stay connected at all costs. Sure, family members will do stupid things, couples will divorce, families may split up and combine with other families, there will be family fights and any number of situations that can tear families apart. If you're going to be the glue that keeps a family together, then do what ever it takes to maintain connections between all members of your family.
By the way, this is not going to be easy - you'll likely be criticized, ignored and possibly even hurt. But, if keeping the family together is worth it (and it is!) then just be prepared to take the heat and keep moving forward.
Everyone is Always Included
Now, not everyone will end up going or participating every time, but every family member should know that they have a standing, if not outright spoken invitation to be included in any family activity. The best families are those who have made a place for every member - a place that can only be filled by that family member.
A place where they belong.
Another important point here - every member of the family needs to know that whatever they say or do - no matter how bad, stupid, how ridiculous - they are still a part of the family. You don't need family counseling to tell you this.
Make Occasions to Make Memories
One of our favorite things to do as a family is to get together and reminisce about all the stories and legends that make up our family history. These memories and stories serve as another type of "family glue" that closely and tightly bonds us to one another. My wife is really a master at creating occasions that are perfect for making memories. Every occasion is an reason to get together with family to make that time memorable and special.
I'm not talking about Martha Stewart special where someone spends days or weeks preparing to make the perfect hors d'oeuvres or decorations. I'm talking about simply getting the family together around the kitchen table to play cards, a game, tell stories or just talk about what's going on in one another's lives. It's amazing how a two-dollar cake mix and some coffee can bring a family together.
Memories are made on these occasions. Sometimes memories can be made on a trip to the Grand Canyon or on a trip to the grocery store. Growing up, one of my brothers would simply refuse to play Monopoly with us unless we gave him Boardwalk and Park Place.
To this day, every time we open up the Monopoly box, someone is going to re-tell that little story. I know the best stories in our family come from both good and bad times experienced by family members. From these occasions for making memories come some of the most epic and legendary stories.
Tell Legendary Stories Again and Again
My childhood was rife with lots of situations that were filled with funny moments, embarrassing gaffes and even danger. All of these have the makings of great stories.
One story in our family has now reached legendary status. Seems this story has circled the globe and is being passed on to many other people. It was passed around so often that my own mother heard the retelling of this legendary story from someone she went to visit in another part of the country. I can't share the details because if my brother found out I told you, he would literally hunt me down and kill me. And yes, it's that good.
When we tell stories and legends of things that have happened to us in our family, it brings us together in a way that nothing else can. We may have heard these stories many times before, but each time we just seem to laugh even more.
The best stories involved my wife's grandmother and every time we get together with her family, these stories are re-told again. My brother-in-law laughed so hard at the re-telling of one of these stories that he passed out sitting right there at the table.
Telling and re-telling the legends and stories of your family brings everyone closer together. For some families it is the absolute best form of family counseling.
Find a Reason to Celebrate Everyday Things Every Day
It's so easy to get buried in the day-to-day routine of work and life. I had to force myself to remember that even though I am working hard, my family life still moves forward - with me or without me. I didn't want to miss a minute of my kids growing up so I decided to bring my work home. When my kids were just a few years old, I moved my office into our converted garage. At first, the transition was very difficult but we soon got into a rhythm.
I made the decision to be an "at-home-father" and because of that, I got to be a part of the memories my kids were making - those seemingly unimportant things like helping toddlers get dressed in the morning (it's very important to them), meal times, first days at pre-school, elementary school, etc. I was there when my daughter cut her own hair for the first time (that story is now epic legend in our family storytelling sessions), the first time one of my kids played on the piano, made the basketball team or even seemingly simple things like when they saw their first dog. I know these things seem minor to us adults, but to kids, these are momentous. I made a choice to work at home so I could find reasons to celebrate the everyday things with my kids.
Those seemingly insignificant instances and occasions will become strong memories that will live in our minds until the end of time. When those become shared memories, they make a very strong family glue that bonds you together for life. You don't need family counseling to tell you this makes sense.
Bring People Together With Food
Now I'm not saying you should set a pie to cool in the window (remember those days?) or bake cookies just to get your family to come-a-runnin' - wait - yes, I am saying that. Food is something that everyone has in common and it's the perfect opportunity for families to get together several times a day.
I'm really not going to expound on this point, but the best family counseling happens around the table when we all sit down together to eat a meal. Our grandparents knew this. I think some families have forgotten how important a meal can be in bringing a family together.
Start Saying "I Love You" at Least Once Every Day
One of my children started saying this when she was very young, about two years old. It seemed to her that every occasion was an occasion to tell others "I love you." Our family is very loving, but we never really said it so much, we sort of just assumed it.
Well as this child grew, she would continue to say "I love you" when she went to bed, left for school, went to the store with her mother - whenever. No matter where she was, she would call out to those people leaving that she loved them. And how does one respond to those three little words? You know the answer.
The best family counseling advice I ever received was from this precious two-year-old.
Soon, we all started saying it in our very large extended family every time we would say goodbye on the phone, leave town or just head out to the store. I have to say, it has changed the way we interact with one another and changed the way we treat those outside our family. There is great power in those three little words.
Worst and Best Christmas Day Ever
I didn't realize how important saying those words would be until I finally said them to my father for the first time in more than 30 years. During that time, for various reasons (none of them good), my dad and I had grown apart. I decided to follow my daughter's example and attempt to fix the broken relationship with my dad. It was a long and tough process but I was determined and he was, too. Growing up, my dad and I never really said those three words to one another - like most folks, we just assumed it.
On the night before Christmas, my father and I had a good, long conversation over the phone. I remember it so well because my dad was very talkative, and he was typically a man of few words. We talked about so many things that night. After about 45 minutes, I decided to tell him how I felt. The conversation reached a lull and I knew it was time. I nervously said, "I love you. Dad." He responded with an "I love you, too, son." I remember the whole world changed for me at that instant. I knew that we could finally start building our relationship again.
On Christmas morning, the next day, I received a phone call from my step mother. A sudden heart attack had taken my dad just a short time before she called. I was devastated. but so thankful for the conversation and exchange of those three magic words on the phone the day before.
The Bottom Line on Family Glue
If you have a close family and you or some member of your family has been through a crisis, it's wonderful to experience the support and encouragement from those closest to you. Those tough times really bring the importance of family into focus.
It's also times like these when the purpose of family becomes important, when family members really come together for one another. But those don't have to be the only times families show they care. Each day holds many opportunities to tell those around you how you feel.
Don't waste those opportunities. If there is someone in your life who means the world to you, let them know in some special way - even if it's just to tell them those three magic words - I love you. If you've made a commitment to be the person who encourages the familial bonds in your family - to be the "family glue" - then let me encourage you to be strong, stay the course and one day, your family will thank you.