By Valtreasa Tolliver-Cook, Ed.D, ACSW, MSW, LSW
“The family unit plays a critical role in our society and in the training of the generation to come.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
We all live in a family. It has been said by many that, “The family is the basic social unit around which everything in society revolves.” Consequently, preserving the family unit is critical, especially during these times. The truth is, the family unit is under attack. All over the world families are falling apart. Preserving the family unit does not come naturally, nor does it happen overnight and it is most definitely not easy. Families are faced with uncertainties, crises, hardships, and challenges every day. Therefore, we must become creative, proactive, and consistent when it comes to preserving the family unit. Here are some essential strategies that have proven to be helpful:
Communicating effectively, listen, and show respect
Effective communication is key to preserving the family unit. However, we must remember that communication is a two-way process. According to The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, “Family communication is much more than just the exchange of words between family members. It is what we say, how we say it, why we say it, when we say it, and what we neglect to say. It is our facial expressions, our gestures, our posture, and our vocal tones”. Perhaps the most important communication skill is listening. It is important that we attentively and actively listen to each other and communicate with openness and honesty. We must also remember that effective communication in the family must include all family members and should be conveyed in a respectful and caring manner.
Make family a priority, spend quality time together
Many of us lead very busy lives and have lots of responsibilities. I know I do, but it is important that we separate work and family life. This can be extremely challenging, at least it is for me. But spending time with my family is near and dear to my heart. It is important that we are fully present when we are with our family. Time is the most precious gift we can give to our family. Zig Zigler stated, “Spend time with those you love. One of these days you will say either, I wish I had or I’m glad I did.” When possible sit down for family dinner and talk, create family rituals, or spend recreational time together doing family activities that each of your family members enjoy. Remember that quality family time results from making family a priority.
Provide support and share resources with each other
It is important to offer support as well as ask for support. All families experience hardships or crises at one time or another; whether it be a broken relationship, loss of a job or income, death, homelessness, sickness, disease, or a fire. Though every situation is unique, all families need support. It is important that we let family members know that we are there to help, provide comfort, love, and care in times of need. We should also be willing, when possible to share what we have. Sharing what we have with family is profitable to the entire family unit.
Deal with conflict, practice love, forgiveness, and show appreciation
Family conflict is a normal and healthy part of family life. Conflict occurs in ALL families. Conflict can occur at any time so it is important for families to have effective ways of handling it. Conflict itself is not a problem, but the way it is handled might be. When conflict is managed in a positive way, families are strengthen and the family unit can be preserved. When conflict is not managed effectively, it causes stress and damage to the family unit. However, the first thing to remember is that we are all human, no one is perfect and from time to time, we get on each other’s nerves. The truth is sometimes, we offend each other, misunderstand each other, fail each other and disappoint each other. Consequently, in order to preserve the family unit, we must practice love and forgiveness. This is true for all relationships. According to the website Grace to You, “Forgiveness is a marvelous, virtuous, liberating, loving attitude and act. It makes sense to forgive. It is healthy, wholesome, liberating, and sensible. It relieves tension, brings peace, and solicits love. Love should be the center of everything we do in our family. It is the family’s source of strength. We should often tell our family members that we love them and mean it. Most importantly, love should be expressed and demonstrated.
Finally, “Think of your family today and everyday thereafter, don’t let the busy world of today, keep you from showing how much you love and appreciate your family.” (Author Unknown)