How To Get Along With Family
Your attitude, mindset, and perspective determine the result of your visit. A negative attitude sours a warm environment. An insecure perspective invites criticism and grief. A selfish mindset attracts anger and discord. Determine to be the character you seek in your family. Share warmth where there is none. Create peace where there is strife. Be loving but stay safe. You can prepare yourself to share time together without regret, and to leave at peace with yourself and your choices. Here are ten traits to exhibit that will create a better you at the holidays or any family visit.
What are you seeking from your family? People often seek approval, acceptance, and affirmation. You may want attention, assistance, or just desire some appreciation. Each family member comes with different expectations. You need to honestly examine your own assumptions, and realize you cannot control the behavior of others. Do not expect others to behave as you desire, nor create an image of the perfect time that you expect to fulfill. Your disappointments will show in your harsh words or actions. You will be the stress that you seek to avoid.
Family dynamics are complicated. A critical word that you would normally disregard can hurt deeply if spoken from a loved one. While you usually know your family the best, you often treat each other the worst. Tension, trauma, and unresolved bitterness can surround a family gathering. What about the children who feel they are never good enough, or the parents who feels their children are ungrateful and disrespectful? What about death, betrayal, or disappointment? What about the alcoholic mother who hurt her family for years, but now wants a second chance through forgiveness and grace? How do you relieve the tension, without acting fake, around a relative who has caused pain through emotional or physical abuse? What about the family member who sexually abused another, but denies it ever happened, and causes all to take sides? It could be any issue, but pain often results in people taking sides. With this reality, how can you still get along?
I know the sadness of watching your loved ones torn apart over discord. I understand the fear and grief of pain inflicted on you by another. I know the sense of injustice when wrongs are not set right. I also know that family is still family. I control what is up to me, and no longer try to control what is up to others. I refuse to allow the pain of the past to rob me of my joy today. I find pleasure despite life’s pain. I have fought my way to a peaceful family time for my children and for myself, where I can be real, yet guarded. I am careful to think about the positive memories, and bring an upbeat attitude to our visits. I put my children first. I take away from the experience life lessons. I learn how much I have changed, and where I still need to heal. I discover new sides to loved ones, and show new sides to me too.
Whether your family times are generally peaceful, or full of stress, here are ten actions you can take to get along better.
1. Be flexible and positive.
Plan ahead, but be prepared to throw out parts of your plan. You will get along best if you are not stressed when the schedule changes. Keep a positive attitude. Going somewhere different for dinner? Fine, ask for a long scenic drive there and see new sights. Is someone starting a new tradition? Take part and add your touch to it.
2. Be protective.
Guard your children, yourself, and your heart. Hopefully your family is a warm and safe place, with just everyday tension mixed in from clashing personalities. Some families, however, have serious issues that need to be watched. Safety is important. Decide ahead of time what to do if a certain situation arises. Nobody is perfect, and some things are worth putting up with for the sake of families. Some are not. Pray for wisdom and be ready to take action if the situation warrants it. Stay out of danger.
3. Be confident.
Do you know who you are, and are you secure in your identity? Show it. If you act insecure, you will attract people waiting to tell you how to feel. If you act unsure, others will be quick to help decide for you. Family often sense your subtle emotions, so if you are concerned about others trying to ‘fix’ you, then do some personal development ahead of time. Walk into the room knowing you are the best you possible right now, and that you will continue to be better. Be confident that you have value to contribute to others, and show your certainty.
4. Be authentic.
Be true to yourself. Be real. This does not mean you have to show every emotion. You feel the emotion, decide how to respond (rather than react), and allow yourself to process the feelings later. You can compartmentalize it for now, but be sure you deal with it later.
5. Be respectful.
There is a time for everything. Your parents and loved ones are not perfect. Neither are you. A great attitude begins with a desire to benefit others, and not to get even. Proverbs 15:1 says ”A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Show respect to your elders for the good part of their roles they have played in your life. Practice good communication skills. Consider the feelings of others, and try to imagine how you would feel from their perspective.
6. Be forgiving.
Forgive yourself, and forgive others. Bitterness and anger will only hurt yourself. Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. To forgive does not mean to forget. Let slip from memory the little offenses that can build up, releasing them as you understand you need forgiveness too. Keep in mind the larger offenses that have taught you lessons. You know you have truly forgiven someone when you can recall what happened without feeling the anger again. Give people a second chance, but be safe. Trust is earned. Forgive, be gracious in showing your attitude of forgiveness, and guard your heart as the trust is rebuilt.
7. Be generous.
What can you give that is of value to your family? Share it. Be generous in word and deed. Show appreciation to those who have supported you. Give kind words to those closest to you. Say I love you. Be generous with your love, be generous with your time, and be generous with your money. Do not grieve yourself going into debt over a gift, but make it meaningful.
8. Be playful.
Play. Laugh. Have fun. Have a funny video or game ready to help break the tension if needed. Seek out pleasure moments and treasure them. Play reduces stress and elevates moods. Find mutual interests to enjoy.
9. Be attentive.
Are you always on the phone, computer, or PDA? When you put them away, you are telling your family what is most important. Listen to each other. Discord is often created, and is definitely increased, by misunderstanding and poor communication. Pay attention the way you want others to pay attention to you. Have you changed over the years? Remember others change too. Look for new positive traits in each other. You may be surprised.
10. Be nurturing.
Take care of your family, and take care of yourself. Remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be the best you possible at the moment, and then be your own best friend.