Keeping your family together and keeping the relationships healthy does take work. It doesn’t, however, take any more work than having no structure at home and having your family all over the place. The trick is to create the right habits; once the good habits are formed they are as easy to upkeep as the bad habits.
Many of the habits developed by families have been formed unconsciously (habits developed unconsciously tend to be negative). Habits are developed unconsciously when families don’t give thought to the structure or format they would like to follow. This happens more often than not because life just gets too busy.
Sitting down to think about your habits may sound like an extra thing on your plate. After all, you can make up the positive habits as you go along, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works. When you are spread thin, you don’t have enough mental resources to think of better habits to follow. This is why they need to be prepared beforehand (thought of, written down, and planned out).
Too many bad habits in the home tend to lead to chaos and argument. Teens are frustrated with parents and parents are frustrated with teens. In the end, it’s a lose-lose situation. If you feel your family situation could use some work, I suggest you look at the family habits first.
If you haven’t thought about what new habits you would like for your family to develop, I can get you started with my suggestions. Incorporate them into your family life one at a time. As time goes on, pay attention to what other positive habits your family would benefit from.
1. Gratitude: We all have so much to be thankful for, yet we often forget how fortunate we are. Make gratitude a regular practice in your home. When a great opportunity comes your way or when you avoid a near accident share with your child how thankful you are for what you have been given. It will change your perspective on your life, and it will change your teen’s view of what life is all about.
2. Positive thinking: We all know positive thinking is important, yet many don’t practice this habit. Why? It’s really hard to keep the habit going because most of us are used to thinking pessimistically. And at times it feels like you just can’t control how your child is thinking. That’s true. So, I encourage you not to try controlling how she’s thinking. Instead, control your thoughts, speech, and behaviour. You don’t even have to try correcting her speech. Just focus on you staying positive. Once you are able to consistently model positivity, she’ll adapt that. The best part? It’s difficult to continuously fight in a positive home.
3. Take turns speaking: When having family conversations, take turns speaking. The people with authority (parents) and oldest sibling can take over conversations and they tend to be the loudest. Allow all family members to have an equal amount of speaking time. All kids have ideas and nothing shows more love than backing off so your quietest child can speak up too. Create rules in the house for how this will work.
4. Listen: When your teen wants to talk, just listen. Don’t give your advice. Ask questions to keep conversation going and so you can really understand your teen’s perspective. Allow your teen the time to speak to you. If you cut her off to share your wonderful wisdom, she’s more likely to cut off her conversation with you. She just wants you to listen. If she’s not sure of what to do and is asking for your opinion, guide her to make a decision through a series of questions. Let her develop her decision-making skills.
5. Slow down: Have the family slow down so you can appreciate each other. Both your relationship with your children and with your partner will improve when you have time for each other. By making regular time for your teen, you reduce the likelihood she’ll distance herself from you and if she does, you give her reason to rebuild a relationship with you again.
Best Wishes to You and Your Family!
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto