Healthy family relationships teach life lessons, values
Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family. —Anthony Brandt
In this world of technologically savvy children and youth, the importance of family activities cannot be understated. Family gatherings and spending quality time with family, parents, grandparents and extended relatives teaches children many valuable life lessons and can be a source of emotional support, nurturing, protection and security. I remember as a child and even well into my teens the holiday gatherings provided me with a sense of belonging and identity. When my grandmother passed away two years ago, I was concerned and maybe convinced that my extended family would lose contact over time. She was the matriarch and the glue that held the family together. However, through the sustained efforts of my father and his siblings, not only has the family maintained contact, but through many family gatherings and events we have remained connected.
Being part of a family is not easy. There is no one who can make you more miserable than family, consequently, they are also the ones you turn to when in need or struggling with life. Families are much more than groups of individuals and they have their own goals and aspirations. Family is a place where every child and adult should feel that he or she is special and a place where everyone’s individuality is respected. Although every family has conflicts, it is important that all individuals can express themselves openly, share their feelings and have their opinions listened to with understanding. In fact, conflicts and disagreements are a normal part of family life and are important because it permits individuals to communicate their differences and vent their feelings.
I often recommend family meetings as a way to implement family rules and discuss consequences to help promote growth as an individual and a healthy family unit. Children of all ages can take part in some family decision-making and problem-solving. When all family members feel they are valued and heard, they are more likely to cooperate with each other. Planning activities together helps to enrich the sense of family and develops a feeling of belonging, wholeness and dignity. Healthy family relationships provide children with a sense of being valued. In order to have a healthy family, there should be a give and take of love and empathy.
A healthy family teaches children about personal values and gives guidance about social behavior. It teaches discipline and helps them adopt codes of conduct that will serve them for the rest of their lives. A healthy family can help children develop positive interpersonal relationships, and it provides an environment that encourages learning both in the home and at school. It gives children a sense of history and a secure base from which to grow and develop. However, these important functions do not happen automatically, it takes hard work to keep the family going as an effective, adaptive and functional unit. Psychologists agree the child learns most of his/her lessons in life and inherits morals and values from their family.
Brenda-Lee Duarte, executive director at LifeLine Counseling Center, 1033 W. Broadway Ave, Maryville, 981-7400, is a licensed professional counselor and therapist. She and Megan Rapien, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, will contribute columns on mental health issues the first Sunday of each month in the Sunday Life section.