Families come in all forms; some may be more dysfunctional than others but the bottom line is if there is an opportunity to improve your relationship with your family, then it is important to do so.
It can be very easy to put a spotlight on the differences you may have with your family members. Learning to acknowledge that this may be okay can help you to begin building strong family ties.
How to Improve Family Relationships
A dysfunctional family can be very detrimental to mental health, and studies have found it can particularly affect self-esteem and response to stress. There are things that can be done by the entire family to improve relationships with one another.
Share Quality Time With Your Family Members
It is imperative to spend time with your family, even if it is just eating together at dinner. Studies have found that children who have dinner with their parents have improved well-being, thus the frequency of these family meals benefits the togetherness of the whole family. This gives the family a chance to talk and be aware of what is going on in each other’s lives. Therefore, whether it is a takeaway in the den or a home-cooked meal at the table, spending this time together is key. Do remember to not just sit in front of any electronics; put them away and have organic conversations.
Aside from family meals, there are plenty of other fun things you can do to create a better relationship with your family members. Some of the following ideas are great activities to get the family involved and have some fun:
- Games night – Team playing games can instigate funny interactions and develop a sense of connection.
- Bowling – Even if you are not that good at it, sports like bowling can be something to do with the kids to just have a bit of fun.
- Theme night – Choose a theme, maybe Mexican night, cook food and play music associated with it. Have a bit of fun with it!
One-on-one time is also necessary to develop a good relationship individually with your mom, dad, or any other family member. Just talking to the person and finding common ground with each other can improve your relationship with your parents or vice versa. This does not have to be a long, scheduled event, just a chat over a morning coffee or on a walk is enough to find more out about one another and strengthen the connection.
If parents have children in their teenage years, remember this is a time for increased privacy and development, so try to compromise and find out what they would like to do. It might be harder getting them to do activities, but it will be worthwhile if you do.
Expressing Love and Appreciation Daily
To create a healthy relationship with any family member, telling them the things you love about them and appreciate them will show you recognize what they do and who they are. This can be a parent to child or vice versa; both parties need respect and recognition.
Maybe investing in a small gift could be a small thing to you but a massive thing to the person receiving the gift. Gestures like this can go a long way but there are also some daily habits you can incorporate that will help to establish those positive relationships:
- Greet your family member when you leave or arrive home with a hug.
- Compliment family members on achievements, even small ones.
- Do household chores that were not asked for if you want to improve your relationship with your parents.
- Let your parents know how much appreciation you have for them and everything they have done for you; they don’t want to feel taken for granted.
Actions like these will help your relationships by establishing mutual respect and in the grand scheme of things, they are tiny things to do, but for a much bigger cause.
Improve Your Communication With Them
In family and social relationships, good communication is vital to solve problems and understand each other’s differences without causing massive arguments. Obviously, arguments do happen, especially when you live together, but developing mature communication skills can avoid or minimize them.
There are some essential skills that can lead to better communication and are excellent for improving relationships.
Show genuine interest
Showing genuine interest in your parents’ or children’s interests will bring you a lot closer. They will recognize your interest as support and it will give them a sense of importance and value. A few ways to show interest could be:
- If they are part of a sports team, attending any games, or even joining in if that is accessible
- Asking them about their interests and actively listening to them
- Ask how they are doing
- Repeating what they say back to them shows you have digested what they said properly
The power of listening can lead to feelings of togetherness in people and a sense of connectivity in family relationships.
Both parents and children need to take accountability for their actions to develop a level of respect between them both. If you have done something to upset a family member, then it is much better to accept that your actions or words may have caused an upset and move past it by apologizing, rather than getting defensive.
Notice the way you deliver your apology: is it sincere? Your body language and words should be sincere, as opposed to just saying it. Make sure to appear open and welcoming to their point of view and ensure you understand how they are feeling. Maintain good eye contact and listen attentively to their feelings. For example, if you just say “Oh my bad,” it may sound insincere. Using phrases like “I am truly sorry, I didn’t realize how much it affected you,” will sound more genuine.
avoid unwelcome opinions and criticism of family members
When living with parents or children, it is obvious you may notice the faults (which we all have). As much as you feel as a parent that it is your duty to fix and protect your kids, it may put a strain on family relationships if you criticize.
Our own opinions may not be the correct ones; thus think about whether you actually need to bring certain things up. People also tend to learn by observation rather than being told; this is called modeling and is a very established way of learning. Taking this into account, if there is something you are getting annoyed with, think about how it would make them feel if you told them your point. Upsetting family members will damage the relationship you have and cause negative impacts on your life.
Be careful what words you use with your family members and children
When you are talking to your family members, make sure you treat them like you would any other relationship you have, whether that is with your friends or anyone else in your life. Speaking respectfully to parents may make them less likely to become defensive.
Even an adult needs to accept that they should also speak to their kids with respect to improve the relationship they have with their child. No matter the age, even if you have an adult child, it is important for family relationships to maintain a mutual level of respect. Saying things like “You should know better than that” can come off as patronizing and may affect your child’s mental health.
Talk with respect by making some minor adaptations; for example, speak modestly by saying “it may be” instead of “it definitely is” and waiting until they have finished speaking to talk. Once you treat each other with respect, there will be more trust and family life will become a lot easier.
Tips For Adult Children
It can be difficult as an adult child to deal with the changes that come with aging. Parents may find it hard to adjust to their child leaving the home and progressing to the next stage in life. It is important to have empathy, but also don’t be afraid to set boundaries to avoid any arguments.
Sometimes your own parents may try and control how you discipline your own children. This can be a difficult matter but setting healthy boundaries can avoid this from happening again. Just politely ask your parents not to interfere with your parenting. Do not compare them to other adults or families as this can bring about insecurities and negative emotions.
Incorporating Emotional Intelligence in Family Life
Emotional intelligence can save family relationships if they are struggling due to bickering, resentment, and misunderstanding. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability of understanding and controlling one’s emotions but also have the empathy to deal with interpersonal issues where emotions are involved.
Families may cause a lot of drama but by learning to deal with your own emotions and others, relationships will naturally improve. By being sure of how you feel, nobody else can manipulate you with their emotions, or make you feel that family conflicts are other people’s fault.
What Emotional Intelligence Skills Can You Use in Family Relationships?
- Empathy – This is an important trait to help understand how your parents or children are feeling, no matter what the issue was, to begin with. If you can see things from their point of view, you may find it easier to sort out arguments and support each other.
- Consistency – Emotional awareness every now and again is not enough to build positive family relationships; you can’t just have emotional maturity one day and then the next, revert to unhealthy communication.
- Self-care – Looking after your own emotional health will not only benefit you but your other family members. Asserting your own needs when you have an issue will be noticed by your family and may even be modeled in their own behaviors once they understand how much nicer it is to look after yourself as well as others.
Get Help Today
At Crossroads Antigua, we offer family therapy that can help build your relationships again, providing expert advice to you and your family. We can help you to understand each other as a family and introduce communication methods that will avoid relationships breaking down.