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Published on October 3, 2017

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

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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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