by: Aaron Shaner, LAMFT, LAPC
Just this weekend it occurred to me that my wife’s job as an educator starts up again in just a few weeks. As summer comes to an end, I was reflecting on the fact that for many the life cycle of their family renews each year during the month of August, not January. For many students, this might be advancing to another grade, or maybe starting a new school, or maybe even leaving home for college. For parents, however, the realization that another year has come and gone only serves to promote a mixture of anxiety, aging and excitement.
The beginning of each new school year is a great opportunity because it’s like a built in do-over for families for at least the next twelve years – a new chance for your kids to get the grades they want or make the team they’re practicing for, a new commitment toward success in your job, or a stronger relationship with your spouse. It’s a great time to renew your family relationships. Each year your family has a new opportunity to simplify the family schedule, make time together a priority, and stay in better communication.
Over the years, I have often observed that families who cope well in a turbulent environment tend to have similar characteristics. On the other hand, families who are in need of guidance through these turbulent situations seem to benefit from adopting practices of those families who tend to be more resilient during times of stress. The following “family best practices” help to strengthen your family and make it more resilient.
In this edition, we will explore four of the twelve family traits that can help build stronger relationships.
True and Tenacious
Being True and Tenacious is defined by the way we pursue of integrity, both in our own life and in our relationships with others. Integrity is not always easy to maintain, therefore we need to implement Tenacity, or persistence, in our relationships in order to be successful with good character over time. Integrity is what allows us to ask for forgiveness when we’ve wronged a family member, and it requires tenacity to continue to pursue honesty in relationship with our spouse and kids.Think of True and Tenacious as the foundation, constantly at work behind the scenes.
Practicing Tranquility is about being approachable in all circumstances. Every individual has moments of stress and anger, but developing an inner peace allows family members to approach each other in these times of tension. Implementing self-control and being able to make good family decisions when outside stressors attempt to infiltrate your thoughts and actions, increases your ability to stay tranquil with your spouse and kids. If your children can approach you even when life is difficult it sends a powerful message to them about your investment in the family.
The act of Transparency goes hand in hand with Tranquility. Transparency allows us to be open about our short comings, express the challenges we face, and how these tensions affect our mood. In the counseling world, we call this vulnerability. Transparency is what shows our family and others that we are not perfect and that we are not afraid to ask for help. This openness creates strong bonds in our family relationships and encourages tranquility in others.
Finally, I want to end this installment on strong families with our response to the transparency of others. Tenderness is the ability to understand someone else’s struggle. Another word for this is empathy. Transparency and Tenderness go together to help build fulfilling relationships. In her book, “I Thought It Was Just Me But It Wasn’t,” Dr. Brene´ Brown states that the two most powerful word’s in the English language are, “me too…” When we are able to empathize with our spouse and kids, we are creating an environment that is accepting of transparency within our family.
As you and your family enter into a new school year, I hope that it also gives you the chance to renew or even rebuild your family relationships so that they can be strong and enduring. In the next article I will discuss four more traits of strong families: Time, Talk, Touch, and Tributes.