By Sareha Shah
Special to The Times Kuwait
Modern living puts a tautness on family amity, but there are things we can do to keep home fires burning brightly. Experts say that a loving family starts with a loving wedlock, in other words, the family is an outcome of the relationship between husband and wife. The family will stay strong if the couple keeps the original motivation that brought them together. They need to feel that they are happier together than they are alone, and that they accept each other as they accept themselves. If a couple share such feelings, these could be passed along to the children.
Mutual Admiration Society: One way to express love is to start a miniature ‘Mutual Admiration Society’ at home. Families that appreciate each other fare better than those that do not. A lot of people do not express compliments because they do not wish to sound insincere, but it is very important to overcome those inhibitions. Family members can either tear each other down in a vicious cycle, or build each other up in a virtuous cycle.
In unhappy families everyone provides constant alarms to make each other tense, upset, and distressed. Each child and each adult know the other’s weak spots, and they know how to embarrass each other. On the other hand, in happy families the same principle works in reverse. Whether it is remembering to write an anniversary card or striving for good marks in school, each person can figure out what they can do to make others happy. They learn to accommodate each other and make each other comfortable.
Strength bombardment: A process to build strong relationships can help families learn how to praise each other. In this game-like method, each person takes a turn enumerating their own good qualities and then listens to more praise from each of the others. The entire family comes together. There may be a counselor or group leader, or some member of the family fits the role of a leader. One person in the family is designated as the target. For instance, the mother may begin as the target person. She is asked to list the strengths that she feels she has as a person. If she lists only two or three because she is modest, the leader can urge her to list others.
After she has completed the list, her husband is supposed to add to her list of strengths/qualities. Or he may elaborate on the strengths that she has already listed. When he has finished, each of the children is asked to add to their mother’s list of strengths. When this is finished, the husband becomes the target person. The same procedure is repeated for him. After that, each of the children becomes the target person. The ‘Strength Bombardment Technique’ is simple, but the results have been amazing as the family members get into a pattern of looking for each other’s good qualities, and they also get into a habit of expressing appreciation to one another.
Grandparents: Love between grandparents and grandchildren is another key to keeping a family together. Children may not go along with their parents; they grow up and move away, but when grandchildren come into being, families seem to be reunited. Researchers point out that dozens of elderly couples expressed that they often disagreed with their children on moral issues and felt a distinct generation gap, but love for their grandchildren managed to bridge that gap. Of the couples surveyed, 90 percent rated their relationship with their grandchildren as good to excellent, they called this new source of love a solidifying factor in their family’s reunions, and said it brought consequential wound healing.
Quality time and talking: Open, honest communication lines and a habit of doing things together are two important hallmarks of a happy family, and they go hand in hand. One seldom works without the other. Often, families are so busy and fragmented that they just communicate with each other rather than spending quality time together. It is important, however, that the families avoid ‘smothering’ togetherness or false togetherness, such as being glued to the television together.
Sometimes families find themselves ‘spread too thin’ and short on time for each other. When this happens, an expert recommends scheduling a casual family meeting during which each person should make a list of all personal activities. By weeding out activities that are not rewarding or important, they might find more time for each other.
The necessity of good communication cannot be overemphasized. Unexpressed anger, or even unexpressed love, may destroy a family. You have got to express whatever is on your mind. If you do not talk about your doubts and fears, they will become a wedge between you and your family. Happy families do not tend to be perfect in every sense; they get mad at each other, but they get the conflict out in the open and are able to talk it over.
For families who have difficulty communicating over great distances, a frequent exchange of letters with photos, phone calls, or video calls could help. With all the different holidays, there are plenty of opportunities to send greeting cards, which only take a minute to write. Parents or if they are aged or no longer, an adult sibling can take charge and maintain a central clearinghouse for reunions. Someone has to take charge before a family can start pulling itself up by its bootstraps. A happy family must have an organized chain of command, from the adults down to the smallest child. Adults should be willing to apologize when they are wrong, but they should do it with dignity.
Happy families deal with crises by managing, even in the darkest of situations, to see some positive element, no matter how tiny, and to focus on it. For relationships to survive, they need to put in the effort that happy families do to become happy. It is not easy; it is a real challenge to find a way to live so that none of us are being browbeaten. It takes goodwill, thinking, problem solving, and ingenuity. Families can do things to make life more enjoyable, and strong families possess that ability.
It is rightly said that family love is a bond characterized by affection, respect, loyalty, and healthy attachment.