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7 Reminders on Building Strong Family Relationships

7 Reminders on Building Strong Family Relationships

At the end of the year, when most of the world celebrates family holidays, you can’t help but revisit the status of your own family relationships. As marketers work hard to paint perfect relationships in every commercial that comes your way, you almost become convinced that the need to navigate the complexities of yours is an exception rather than the rule.

The truth is, all family relationships are multidimensional structures where often polar feelings fit together. Kids love their parents but also hurt them the most. Parents want the best for their kinds but often confuse it with what’s best for them. We have a lot of expectations for our family, and stakes are high. That’s why it is hard when we struggle to connect with them.

Every time you feel an ocean-wide gap between you and someone who shares the same blood, it’s not a moment to withdraw further with a sigh “Well, this is my family.” It is a rather good opportunity to re-examine the beliefs you hold about your family and what makes a family strong.

Below are simple and actionable reminders that, at those very moments when you feel like your family is messed up in some unique ways, will help you strengthen your bonds with your relatives instead of weakening them.

1. Shared DNA Does Not Mean You Will Want the Same

Let’s suppose you get angry when your parents tell you to keep your head down and quietly work hard at a job you don’t like. Or you get upset with your cousins who seem content with their lives and whose ambitions stop at finding a good discount on a pair of shoes at a store. Careers, life aspirations, politics, personal health – all topics where we constantly find ourselves disagreeing with our family members.

If we share the same genetic code, how come our views of these things can be that different? To avoid conflicts, we put those topics into an ever-growing imaginary jar of things we disagree about. And then we either tiptoe around it or minimize interactions with those who hold different opinions. Both make us feel more disconnected as if we can never have a genuine conversation with our own family.

The reality is, DNA is powerful but it is not the only factor at play when people form their views. Your family members grew up at different times, surrounded by different people, reading different books, and going to different schools. Realizing that, you can stop expecting them to want the same things as you do.

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Instead of cultivating a mindset that conflicting views are a family relationship killer, you can try to see how differences make you more diverse and, in a way, stronger as a group.

Instead of taking on an impossible-to-succeed task of changing your family members, learn to value them for who they are.

2. Do Not Get on a Mission to Explain to Them Everything They are Failing at

Have you ever felt an urge to coach your family members about things they are doing wrong in their lives? The sense of responsibility to point out the mistakes on their path can be quite strong. Because, if not for you, who else would tell your single sister to go out more and try new places? Who else would make it clear for your father that he should have taken that job?

When you do it, your intentions might be good. That’s your way of offering support or sharing experience. You may even genuinely feel like you are providing solutions. Yet, on the other side, there is a person being reminded of some way she or he is inadequate in this world. Layer that on top of the issues the individual is already dealing with. No wonder they close down and pull away.

Understanding that it is not your mission to remind your family members of their failures is crucial for fostering relationships with them. They already know when they made their mistakes. Holding space for someone is different than initiating an unsolicited, impromptu “coaching session”. I

nstead of forcing someone into your interpretation of their wrongs, simply let them be. That means respecting your family members’ agency of their own mistakes, while not making them an agenda of every gathering. Your empathy is more valuable than your advice, however well-thought-through it might be.

3. Watch Out for the Ways You May Kill an Initiative

It is a high chance that, for you, plans-gone-wrong or no plans at all rank pretty high among the things you prefer to avoid. So, you resort to planning stuff in advance. Year after year, you arrange that family trip where you do all the work and everyone else just needs to show up. In your clan, you are a solid organizer of every gathering there is.

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And, when, one day, you decide to let go of your usual role, nothing happens. No initiative comes from the other side and you can’t help but wonder if you are the only one who needs it. Congratulations, you may have perfected the craft of suffocating your family members’ initiative without even realizing it.[1]

The desire to control our schedules and environment often leads us to preempt initiatives from our family members. You want things done your way so that there are no unknowns. And they, on the other hand, get used to this aspect being covered by you. So you end up disappointed with the lack of their initiative and they are genuinely surprised thinking that you loved to always do that.

When you start noticing places where you might preempt initiatives from your family members, you will begin allowing them to connect with you on their own terms. They might not always be the way you prefer it, but a two-way relationship is a stronger tie than when you are the only one always holding it together.

4. Unquestioned Bailouts May Be a Path to Severed Relationships

You may take your family members’ financial struggle personally, especially when you do well. You would never think twice to give a helping hand to a relative in a time of difficulty. Yet oftentimes the real difficulty is misrepresented, and your help turns into a form of sponsorship.

For example, you work in a big city, and your second cousin from a small town asks you to help her son get a job. Or your sister has a bad credit score, so she asks you to put a car lease on your name. You surely see how you are in the position to facilitate things here. At the same time, you know that you are assuming both reputational and financial responsibility that will stay there for a while. And, no matter what you do, this will always be a background theme of your relationship with this relative.

Saying “No” to a favor or a financial help request from your relative may raise their eyebrows. More so, it can make you feel like your own values are clashing somewhere deep inside. It’s hard to underestimate the manipulative powers of these situations! The guilt for not caring enough for a person or a cause may turn your firm shoulder into a hanger for others’ responsibilities.

At this point, something you wanted to avoid by doing a favor – alienation from them – becomes inevitable. When you recognize this trap, a firm “No”, however hard, will be something that eventually preserves a family tie.

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5. Do Not Let the Resentment Grow

You might recall from your experiences the times when you chose to shut down a major disagreement with a family member. You did not resolve it, you both simply moved on pretending it never happened, switched to a different topic to not draw anyone’s attention to an argument. “After all, we are family“, you thought and “this is not the right time to start unbundling things.

The problem is that you both carried away a seed of resentment toward each other. And resentment, unaddressed, has the propensity to grow. Each party to the conflict starts looking at each other through the prism of an unresolved issue. A smile becomes a manufactured face expression. A mental accounting of who hit how many times activates. And your attempt to diplomatically move away from an argument in order to avoid a bigger problem brought you straight into that problem.

Not letting the resentment build with your family members requires patience. When you want to deal with a problem on the spot, your relative might not be prepared for it.

A simple thing you can do is start listening to the other party and, instead of trying to come up with counter-arguments, make an effort to understand their view. Look at the world through their mental frame. After they’ve let the steam out, they might be able to see your point too. And finding in yourself an ability to acknowledge other’s points of view definitely makes you more connected than estranged.

6. You Do Your Part

In family relationships, it’s easy to name others a culprit. Take a moment, and you will have no problem pointing out what they are doing wrong. For example, your Dad might not know how to express his feelings. Your brother might always talk about his issues only. You Mom might be convinced that she is always right. The list can go on.

Further, you might have no trouble creating a comprehensive guide of simple tips on how they can connect with you better. Yet, every time you have an urge to do just that, think what each of those tips means for you doing your part. For one, you might habitually mirror the same behaviors without realizing it. Secondly, you may create the very environment for your family members to act exactly the way they do.

Doing your part means taking responsibility in fostering family relationships, not simply being a passive recipient and a casual critic. That means, asking yourself questions:

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  • How do I contribute to escalating things I want to avoid?
  • How do I facilitate what I later complain about?

And, if doing your part means initiating, checking in, visiting, or listening – you do that!

7. You Do Not Have Infinite Time

No conversation about strengthening family relationships is complete without a reminder that these relationships are not infinite. Sometimes, people who you are used to seeing around become the ones you take for granted.

Though intellectually, you understand well that one day they will be all gone, applying this to practice is a different story. In the realm of a busy life, it becomes “I value my family in general, but right now I have no time to talk to my parents.”

A simple reminder to self that you don’t have infinite time with your family makes it clear that it is not about “in general”, but rather about “right now”. Because we can theorize and make mental notes on how to deal with relatives in various situations in the future. But nothing lays a better foundation for strengthening the family relationships than dialing a family member and saying “Hi” to them, right now.

More Tips to Help Strengthen Your Family Relationships

Featured photo credit: Naassom Azevedo via unsplash.com

Reference

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Oxana Kunets

Explorer of all things meaningful living, confidence, and courage

14 Ways Strong-Minded People Think Differently How to Turn a Bad Attitude into a Positive One How to Answer the Interview Question “What Motivates You?” 7 Reminders on Building Strong Family Relationships

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

The 20 Most Creative Instagram Accounts That Will Inspire You

The 20 Most Creative Instagram Accounts That Will Inspire You

Instagram allows you to see exactly what inspires people and how creativity is drawn from their everyday life. We use Instagram to capture what makes us smile, what brings joy to our life, and what we are passionate about, and the accounts listed below are sure to inspire you in turn.

Here are our 20 top creative Instagram accounts that you should be following today.

1. Humans Of New York

Brandon Stanton walks the streets of New York City taking street photography, and he gets his subjects to open up about life details that even many family members may not know about them. It makes you smile and connect with the images at a new level.

 2.  Paris in Four Months

Carin Olsson moved to Paris and is documenting every part of her experience, from the macaroons to the Eiffel Tower with all of its shimmering lights. If you want to go to Paris but can’t get there today, Carin will take you.

3. Civilized Caveman Cooking

George Bryant offers up more than his love for cooking Paleo cuisine as he shares more about life, joy, and happiness. His coined hashtag is #hugsandbacon.

4. Andrew Knapp

Andrew has taken the world by storm with his adorable version of Where’s Waldo? His version is Find Momo, and stars his border collie.

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5. Idafrosk

Ida Skivenes has developed a knack for food art. From the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Strawberry Fields Forever, she has recreated it all with food.

6. GrandmaBetty33

Grandma Betty is fighting cancer and is inspiring others to smile and be happy in life. She brings a smile to your face instantly and is like having your grandma right beside you.

7. Maya_on_the_Move

Tania Ahsan captures the world of her cute bulldog, Maya, on her adventures in New York. Maya makes appearances that will make you smile, laugh, and inspire you to go out and create something special.

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8. Leoleoparis

Leo captures the life on the streets of Paris. Most of his work is done in black and white, offering that iconic Parisian look.

9. Jacob Santiago

Jacob Santiago creates stunning, vibrant images around New York City, showcasing the architecture and streets. I’m sure you haven’t seen the streets of NYC like this before.

10. Julie’s Kitchen

Julie Lee showcases how everyday produce can create colorful art designs. At first glance, you think it is just a design; then, a second take illustrates that it is really fruits and vegetables.

11. iloveplaymo

iloveplaymo brings together photography and Playmobil toys in action. The images are up to date with current world events and everyday life.

12. “Red” Hong Yi

Red Hong Yi loves to paint without a paintbrush. Her style uses daily items to create lovely images.

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13. Alexis Diaz

A breathtaking artist from Puerto Rico who loves to paint murals. Alexis’s work is featured all over the world.

14. Murad Osmann

Murad Osmann is a music video producer, but his claim to fame on Instagram has been his photographs with his girlfriend leading him by her hand.

15. Simone Bramate

Simone Bramate is a storyteller who just so happens to take delightful photos as well.

16. Willie Kessel

Willie Kessel brings beach life right to your smartphone. Amazing surf and lifestyle images that take your mind off of all of the work and stress in your life.

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17. Nick Ulivieri

Nick Ulivieri is a talented photographer who loves to capture the windy city of Chicago and skies, especially during storms. His images are gorgeous and make you realize how wonderful life really is.

18. Jo Jerry

Jo Jerry’s landscape photos around Santorini, Greece, make you want to book a flight immediately. The bright colors and simplicity in the images make his photos stand out from the rest.

19. GoPro

GoPro uses fan-sourced images on their account that are all captured with a GoPro. Creativity to the max is used in these images and range from the grocery store to incredible surf.

20. Vin Farrell

Vin Farrell is a creative who works on the agency side for large clients and has a knack for photography. His iPhone captures amazing aerial images around NYC and the world.

Featured photo credit: Andy via flickr.com

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