The word family is powerful and holds significant value. The most common view of family is biological relatives, although some refer to close friends as family. Family can be your church, your friends, your co-workers, your sorority or fraternity mates or your neighbor. So whether your view of family is the one you were born into, adopted into, loved into or have chosen, the concept is meaningful. Family can evoke feelings of belonging, connectedness, love, respect and support.
Take a moment and think about your own family traditions and culture. Healthy family traditions strengthen bonds and create a sense of connectedness. What is at least one thing that someone in your family passed on to you that you continue to cherish? Is it a recipe, a particular day you celebrate, a precedent about who carves the turkey on Thanksgiving or a wedding celebration custom? Although our family traditions may differ, we all share them in some way.
Healthy family traditions create moments of priceless quality time. However, you don’t always need a family tradition to make lasting, meaningful memories. Every moment you share with someone you call family can be defined as quality time. Author Gary Chapman named quality time one of the five “love languages.” This is a way to show someone that you love them, care about them and are connected to them. Quality time in families can be scheduled or impromptu. It doesn’t matter how you implement quality time in your family; it’s just essential that it happens. Spending family quality time together promotes strong family bonds. When was the last time you had scheduled or impromptu quality time with your family?
Healthy family traditions also inspire family goals. When families come together to work toward a common goal, they are more likely to succeed. Everyone in the family unit is an individual and should be treated independently. Nevertheless, individual personal goals can be supported within family goals.
This is not to be confused with codependency, nor family enmeshment. Encouraging family goals promotes family strengths alongside individual strengths, builds trust and elevates individual self-esteem toward a sense of accomplishment. Setting family goals will identify family stressors, too, and by identifying them often provide a solution. For example, let’s say your family usually has evening activities, and by the time you all arrive home, there’s just enough time for homework, dinner and a bath before bed. The family has spent little to no organized quality time together. The solution may lie in a family goal, like watching at least one movie together on Sunday evening. This may not look like your family at all, but we all have stressors. Identify those affecting your family and develop a solution through your family goals.
As a therapist, I know there’s no two families with the exact same dynamics. Families come in all shapes and sizes. All families have a good side, bad side and ugly side. No matter what shape or size, remember your family is valuable. Reflect on the dynamics of your family, implement traditions and culture, create priceless moments together and set goals that promote individuality and family growth.
Rivers, LCSW and MPH, is owner and chief therapist with Rivers Psychotherapy Services PLLC, located in Gulfport. Reach her at (707) 728-5131.