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Why the Happiest Family Is Never a Perfect Family

Why the Happiest Family Is Never a Perfect Family

With seemingly perfect family images plastered all over social media, people viewing these images online may begin to think that other families are perfect, while theirs is flawed. But there is no such thing as a perfect family.

People only portray the highlights and goodness of their family on the internet. Most don’t put their family ugliness and dysfunction on facebook for the world to see. But we all have that one friend who chooses to air their dirty laundry on social media on a fairly regular basis. This person is an exception to the rule.

People want others to only see the good things, because that is what they want to remember and highlight for the world to see. They aren’t out to deceive the world that they don’t have family issues, it is just that they don’t feel compelled to show the world the negatives in their lives. They are choosing to be selective in what they show the world.

Everyone needs to view social media with caution and the knowledge that there is no such thing as a perfect family. You may not know a family’s struggles, their flaws, or their personal issues, but they do exist in every family.

Dissatisfaction with one’s own family can develop when you compare yourself to the seemingly perfect images on social media; those images that are truly not showing the whole picture. There should be a disclaimer on social media that states “view with caution, as images can be deceptive with only the most perfect images shown”.

The family unit is a dynamic, ever changing, living organism. There are no perfect people on this planet, so families can never be perfect. However, there can be happiness in a family. There are several keys to making a family unit happy, functional, and loving. There are also some common mistakes to avoid, as these mistakes damage the structure, relationships, and harmony within the family. Below are some of the common mistakes to avoid and the keys for making a family loving and functional.

Little Things That Add up to Big Problems in a Family

Gossip

Gossip is talking about someone behind their back to another person. It is far too common in families and creates great dissension. If someone has a problem with a family member, they need to go to that family member directly for discussion of the problem. They should also talk to them in private. Bringing up an issue in front of other family members can be even more hurtful and it makes the person bringing up the issue seem insensitive.

Talking about fellow family members behind their back is hurtful, breaks down trust within the family, and is mean. Don’t be a meanie. Stop the gossip one person at a time beginning with yourself. If you have an issue with someone in the family, then approach them in private with compassion and an empathetic ear, wanting to truly help them. If the issue has nothing to do with your life or the function of the family, then perhaps you need to leave it alone.

The Blame Game

Problems exist in every family. The goal is to work through the problems, so you can enjoy life together. If people within a family are continually pointing fingers of blame regarding issues within the family, or even outside of the family, then there will not be peace. It is hard to like someone or get along with them if the person is negative toward you, putting you down, or telling you what is wrong with you.

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We all need to avoid the blame game. We all have flaws and idiosyncrasies. If you want others to accept your idiosyncrasies, then you need to accept their idiosyncrasies as well.

Unequal Treatment

Far too many families treat their children different from another. That may on the surface seem like a good statement, as we are all individuals needing individual treatment. When treatment from one child to another is unequal in that favoritism is exhibited, then things need to be changed. Parents should try to start the habit as early as possible, to treat their children equally, in regards to time, effort, gifts, etc. When treatments are not balanced equally, resentments develop between siblings. These resentments often carry into adulthood, as do the behaviors of unequal treatment.

Parents should think about their actions as conveying the message that one child is of more value over another when their treatments are skewed in favor of one child over another. No parent wants their child to feel unworthy or less than their other children, therefore equality in treatment is imperative.

Friends Before Family

In order for family to be defined as the most important support system in a person’s life, then family needs to come before friendships. This can be a hard reality for some, especially teenagers. However, parents need to set the tone for the policy that family comes first. If a teen is missing the nightly family dinners to hang out with their friends, they are missing out on crucial family time that will affect their development. The website “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” discussed how important family dinners are to children and the family unit. The following was stated in their article,[1]

A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem.

Families need to make family time, especially dinner together a priority. Friendships must come secondary to family in order for a family to be a healthy and happy unit.

Too Busy for Family Time

We all have busy lives. Time for family needs to be carved out, scheduled, and made a priority. There also needs to be enough down time within a family so that natural interactions can occur. With most families having multiple children, lots of activities for each child, parents with jobs, friends, church activities, and more, there doesn’t seem much time at the end of the day for actual family time. If it isn’t scheduled or prioritized it more than likely will not happen on its own.

Don’t allow your family to become so busy you fail to interact with one another on a meaningful level each day. There needs to be enough time and space within your lives to allow for meaningful interactions, as well as time scheduled for family activities such as a vacations together, board game nights, meals together, etc.

Lying, Cheating, Abuse and Addictions

These factors all damage a family. Depending on the depth of the sin, it can either scar a family for life or it can divide a family forever. There is no such thing as one of these sins not changing a family. If a spouse cheats, it can easily lead to divorce. If addiction disrupts family holidays and gatherings, the family is negatively affected. If physical abuse exists in a family then there will never be full trust or complete love and acceptance of that abuser because of their behavior.

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Minimizing and/or eliminating lying, cheating, abuse, and addiction in our own lives not only benefits oneself, but the family as a whole. The behaviors of the individual have a ripple affect on family members. Some of those ripples come as waves because the behavior is so severe and life altering.

What to Do to Make an Imperfect Family Happy

Every human being on this planet is flawed. There is no such thing as a perfect person. Not even close. Choose to focus on the good.

Use the 80/20 rule as your guide. Imagine that each person has 80% good qualities and then there is that 20% that you think the person could change or improve in themselves. Choose to focus on that 80%. It is a huge percentage. Chose to allow the 20% to just be. Don’t criticize, nag, or harp on the 20%. Doing so won’t change them, because it hasn’t changed their heart. True change in a person comes when their heart is changed. Focus on the good and you will see that change may happen to that 20% over time because you are able to influence their heart by focusing on their good attributes and being a cheerleader for all that is positive in that person.

Negativity kills. Positivity is the breeding ground for hope, joy, and love. Focus on the good to be the positive light in your loved ones life. Even if they are completely driving you up the wall. Someday they may not be here, so cherish the positive aspects of that person now.

Understanding that no family is perfect is only the first step, then you should practice doing the followings to build happiness in your family:

Be a Family Cheerleader

There is enough competition out in the world that the family should not be an environment of competition. It should be the place where each family member is refueled and energized by their fellow family members, so that they can go out and take on the world. The world today is tough! The family and home need to be a haven of support, comfort, and encouragement. If a person can’t get that in their home, where will they get it? There are far too many people growing up to become broken adults because they did not have the positive encouragement and family support that they so desperately needed and craved.

Parents can be quick to criticize. Criticism can be damaging to a child’s self esteem and self worth. Imagine how much more empowered that child would be if each criticism was instead exchanged for an encouraging word from their parents or other family members? Words can carry the weight of the world. They have the power to tear down or to build up. When words come from a fellow family member, the words become even more powerful as they are taken to heart.

Be a builder of life and love in your family by using encouraging words. Carry this through not only with your children, but with your adult siblings, parents, and extended family. You will see family members begin to flourish because of your supportive words. You will also see relationships mended, and people healed simply by the power of the spoken word.

Be a cheerleader for your loved ones, as you would want the same for yourself. Be the example, and perhaps others will follow suite as well. Even if they never do, know that you are doing the right thing and are a builder of hope, positive energy, and encouragement to those around you.

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Practice Traditions

Traditions are an important part of family unity because they are shared experiences that create a bond between family members. These shared experiences create shared memories. They are often passed down from one generation to the next. Traditions do not need to be elaborate in order to be meaningful, but they do need to be established and practices. The lack of traditions creates a void, where meaningful family memories should be present. The Family Reunion Website explained what happens when traditions are not established within a family,[2]

Ironically enough, family traditions are founded regardless of whether or not you try. If a family does not purposely establish a family culture full of positive and meaningful rituals and routines, the plain lack thereof becomes that family’s tradition.

Practicing traditions as a family is a way of creating stronger bonds within the family. It also helps family members have shared life experiences that they can carry on to their own families and children in the future. Traditions have a way of making family members feel close because of the memories they have built over the years.

Cherish Memories and Talk about Them

Memories are powerful. Does your family talk about the positive memories or the negative memories? Choosing which to remember and discuss has an affect on the family.

Choose to remember and embrace the positive memories and you will have greater family harmony. Having family memories and talking about them are a way for family members to bond and remain bonded, even when living thousands or miles away or not being able to visit as often as desired. Shared experiences have a way of shaping our affection toward others. Serenity Hacker had the following to say about the benefit of memories and relationships,[3]

Memories, especially joyful ones, fortify relationships and increase their endurance, especially through difficult times

Celebrate the past and the people shared in your memories by reminiscing about the past with family. You will find that joy can be contagious Spread some joy the next time you are with your family by talking about shared joyful memories from childhood or the past.

Encourage Positive Sibling Relationships

Parents need to teach their children to love one another. Sibling love and care does not always come naturally or easily for every family.

The parents are the ones who will set the tone and expectation for how children are to interact. For example, if a Mom has two children who always argue and pick on one another and she simply chalks it up to “kids being kids” and never makes an attempt to have the children interact positively, then these children will more than likely grow up being adversaries rather than friends or allies.

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If a family wants to have relationships over the course of a lifetime, then the making of those relationships begins in childhood. Parents have a huge affect on their children’s relationships as they can help to shape and mold friendships, comraderies, love, and affection between their children or they can leave it up to the children and hope for the best. Unfortunately, most kids tend to be focused on themselves, so the love and care for others doesn’t come easily. It needs to be taught and molded.

Here is a useful article with tips on how parents can help their children create loving relationships with one another to last a lifetime: 12 Tips to Help Your Kids Create Loving Relationships With One Another That Will Last a Lifetime

Compassion, Understanding, Empathy, and Flexibility

Attitude is everything. How family members treat one another will set the tone for the family. If you want a loving family, then treat one another with compassion and understanding. If someone is going through a difficult time, be there to help your family member. If family can’t or won’t help family, then who will?

Be the family that supports their family members by loving them unconditionally. This means, putting yourself in the shoes of fellow family members so you can understand their plight. Be the listening ear and understanding heart when a family member is struggling or in need of support.

Family members need one another. It is very hurtful to have family members who turn their back on the suffering of fellow family members. Families who demonstrate compassion, understanding, and flexibility to one another have healthier and happier relationships.

Work on Issues by Properly Communicating

Issues are rarely resolved through yelling, screaming, or arguing. Family problems and issues are resolved when people choose to listen with an open heart and mind to the other party and then the issue is discussed using compassion.

Choosing to ignore a problem within a family allows the problem to fester. The sooner an issue is dealt with and discussed, the more likely it can be resolved. The longer a problem festers, the deeper the wounds within a family grow. Here is a helpful article on how to discuss tough topics with family members: How to Negotiate With Your Family Without Hurting the Relationship at All

Invest Time

Last but not least, invest time. If you don’t take the time now to invest into the lives of your children, they will be grown before you know it and you will miss out on the closeness that could have been. If you didn’t have a close relationship with the child when they were growing up, it becomes more difficult to create a closeness later in life.

Invest time and energy into your children while they are growing up, so that you create a bond that can last a lifetime. In doing so. This bond can help you and them weather the storms of life that they will surely encounter.

A Happy Family Does Not Need to Be Perfect

Don’t think that anyone has a perfect or even better family than you, because every family has problems and issues. Don’t let the perfect images on social media fool you. They are all flawed families. They all have problems. They all struggle to get along.

Focus on your own family and making the relationships work and you will be happier in the long run. Cherish your family. They are yours, so embrace them and make the relationships happier and more fruitful by following the tips discussed above.

Reference

[1] Barking Up The Wrong Tree: How to Have a Happy Family
[2] Family Reunion Success: Family Traditions
[3] Serenity Hacker: 7 Ways to Strengthen Relationships by Creating Lasting Memories

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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