Over the past several months I have appreciated time with family more than ever in my life. Recently my daughter and son-in-law moved back to the area from Albuquerque, NM. To experience my daughter’s maturity has been genuinely rewarding. To have family near is a blessing and something I will never take for granted.
Bonding as a family requires patience, loyalty, trust, tolerance, and objectivity. It also demands discipline, a foundation of core values, and a consistency in the application of those values. That’s why what your family stands for and believes in should be defined, reviewed, shared, questioned, and acted upon. It is more than a discussion; it is a decision to live by the values that unify a mother, father, their children, and the grandchildren now and into the future.
Family is defined as “a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family.” There are many variations of families and how families can be defined; however, it is the mutual respect and love demonstrated to one another within a family that is enduring through good times and bad. Granted, there will always be issues, mistakes made, and differences among family members, but the union within an immediate family should display a level of unconditional love, loyalty, and commitment that supersedes all others.
To be loving is to be respectful regardless of differences in opinion. Doing so demonstrates a commitment to the familial relationship. Family forms the foundation for fortitude. To be an effective parent is to align what you project outside your home with how you behave inside your home. Hypocrisy between words and actions destroys respect, trust, and the bonds that build a strong, resilient, and perseverant family.
Do your children know the values of their family? Have you ever asked them? What would they say? Do not assume they know the answer, for assumptions are based on personal impressions and perceptions, not a mutual analysis and understanding of a situation. Assume is defined as “the act of taking for granted or supposing.” To assume and not ask the value question of those you parent and love only creates potential misunderstanding, confusion, and unexpected behaviors.
In raising my own children, there were times I assumed what my children were thinking and how they were behaving. When my assumption was wrong, there were always consequences and misunderstandings that followed. I am not suggesting you should be a “Velcro” parent and attach yourself to your children every moment of every day, but I am suggesting a consistency in dialogue and parental behavior by reiterating the values important to your family.
Every family, like every person, has their dysfunctions. Anyone who believes otherwise is in serious denial. Personal and family development is a continuous work in progress that never ends. It is being accountable for the journey and striving to consistently live the values you believe in that bring your individual and family efforts to a positive fruition. Fun is fleeting, but family is forever. Of course, nothing is perfect and there will always be situations and family conflicts that are challenging to overcome, and at times never resolved. However, it is worthwhile to always strive to build on the strengths that exist and not dwell on the weaknesses or failures that might have occurred.
As in all of life's endeavors, it is important to surround yourself with positive people and behaviors rather than the negative ones, for you attract what you associate with. There may be those in your “Relative” circle who I call the “Dranoids,” those who just suck the positive energy right out of you. To be respectful is important, but to attempt to change them will be exhausting and doubtful. It will only be their own recognition their taking accountability for their self-destructive behavior that will be the catalyst for them to change.
Families are like fudge, mostly sweet, but occasionally a few nuts are thrown in. With Thanksgiving soon upon us and family around us, I hope you will take the time to pose the question of family values to those you love. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised, proud, and educated by the responses provided. It will also provide a framework of respect and accountability as you and your family move forward. As Mother Teresa stated, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”