18 December 2020 07:53
The modern family has undergone great changes in the last fifty years or so. In place of the former archetype: employed father, mother at home, there is now a plurality of family forms, such as single-parent families, extramarital relationships, reconstructed families, ie. new marriage after divorce, spouses living separately, etc.
So, the structure of the family has become increasingly diverse and reflects different lifestyles. However, even in the context of such heterogeneity, it is still possible to speak of a 'good family.'
A good family ensures life satisfaction. But what is it that makes family bonds positive and strong? Research on this topic is numerous and talks about different factors and perspectives. When summarized, the results indicate that a good and strong family rests on the following pillars.
The family ought to be a safe haven, a place where we will always feel safe and protected, where we are free to be who we are, make our own decisions and not be afraid to make mistakes. This is because we know that our loved ones will always be there to support us and help us overcome any situation.
Having emotional support in the family means just that - to have a secure, solid and supportive foundation from which we can embark on life adventures and feel safe at every step. If something goes wrong, the family is there to support us and help us get back on the road, and for all that goes well, they are there to share in our happiness and encourage us to always strive for more.
Being understood and accepted by our family is wonderful, but in between sharing the wonderful, as well as difficult times together, there are things we do on an everyday basis and having all family members participating in these can help build family cohesion.
With the decline of the traditional division of roles in the family and the adoption of a gender-neutral approach to household responsibilities, in many families, it is already quite normal for dad to cook and mom to mow the lawn. Regardless of how you decide to divide these chores and responsibilities, the important thing is that no one feels overloaded or perceives that they are doing a lot more work than others. Including children in these activities, provided that they are age-appropriate, is very important, both because they can feel that their parents perceive them as trust-worthy and responsible, but also because they will be contributing to family life and participate in building strong family bonds directly themselves.
Nothing is so important for the family welfare as the feeling that one belongs in the family, that they are valued both as an individual and an irreplaceable member of the family - that every family member always holds the family before and above anything else.
The family that knows the “why” can handle any “how”.
If all family members intrinsically value the family as being of the highest instance, love and warmth come spontaneously. It is not necessary to even intend to express them - families that are strong have become so, precisely because of the love and warmth they feel and share naturally, without putting an effort.
It is almost impossible to imagine performing any type of activity with other people - not to mention building strong and meaningful relationships - if one party is unable to understand what the other wants and needs. This is especially true for families. Emotional support, love and warmth are a necessary precondition for clear communication, because they make it easier to present problems, needs and demands and to find the best solutions, all while respecting others, their personal needs and opinions. Coming to mutual agreements and honouring them strengthens trust and reliability between family members and in turn, makes the family bonds stronger and more resilient.
At the core of every conflict, whether in the family or elsewhere, are the assumptions and expectations that arise from unclear and inadequate communication - or the complete lack of it. Moreover, if the rules and expected outcomes are not clearly defined and communicated, it could lead to confusion and misunderstandings that can disrupt and weaken family relationships.
Conflict and problem resolution greatly depends on clear communication – moreover, having this clear communication from the beginning can even help prevent conflicts altogether.
As much as we are prone to think that we know our family members so well that we can guess what they are thinking, the key to healthy and clear communication is precisely that: to not assume anything. In fact, sometimes it's almost better to pretend that we know nothing and ask to be told exactly what others feel and need. We might be surprised to learn that, despite all love and support we provide to our family, some members, for various reasons, still might be afraid or uncomfortable sharing certain things with us and saying how they really feel.
Assuring them of our unconditional love and support and encouraging them to share is the first step towards understanding our family members and establishing a smooth communication that leaves no space for issues and conflicts.