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Fostering good family relationships

Many people watch family programming on TV and wonder if the happy, smiling Brady Bunch really exists. In fact, it does – and the real-life Bradys have positive family relationships because they work hard to understand one another and treat each other with respect.

Family

It may take hard work sometimes, but any family can improve its inner workings and develop healthy relationships. This makes life a whole lot easier: holidays are a breeze, everyone knows they have a support system to turn to in tough times and our best friends are also related to us, so we'll be with them until the end.

Ten tips on how you can improve family relationships in your house:

  1. Never give up. Families are units and should never give up on one another. Sometimes people fall on hard times and it's easy to want to stay out, but just think about all the happy moments that came before that: the summers you spent at a cottage, the time your brother defended you at school, the holidays, parties and laughter you shared together. These are the moments that make us want to persevere and believe in our loved ones.
  2. Start a routine. Spending time together is the best way to learn to appreciate one another. Try starting a weekly game night or make sure to eat dinner together at least three times per week. Family traditions are more than fun, they keep us together.
  3. Always communicate. Communication is key in any relationship, but particularly in a family. It is impossible to know how someone else is feeling if we don't ask. Share every member's ups and downs. A family that understands itself is a proud family – kids and parents alike will want to brag about their family's accomplishments, but they can only do this if they are aware of what is going on.
  4. Make yourself available. It's critical that we talk to our kids, especially when a major change is in the future, like divorce, a new marriage, a big move, getting pregnant or an adoption. These are the times when kids need to ask questions and they deserve honest answers.
  5. Stick to your commitments. If we can't depend on our families, who can we depend on? If you say you will be at soccer practice, make every effort to show up on the sidelines.
  6. Share responsibilities. Successful families are like successful teams. Everybody plays an equally important role. This means that dishes, laundry, garbage and other chores should not all fall to one person. Sharing responsibilities with kids also prepares them for the future – kids who have everything done for them are being set up for a sore reality later in life! This also sets clear rules and expectations, so kids know exactly what they need to do and can be praised for keeping up.
  7. Learn about your past. Knowing where we come from is just as important as knowing where we are going. Take some time to research and explore your family tree and share what you find with other members of your family. Visit your local library for books on genealogy and birth and death records. This can become a fun family project and you never know what you will uncover!
  8. Plan a family reunion. Family extends far beyond the walls of our own homes. Just like learning about your family's past, it is important to get to know relatives you don't see every day. Try planning a family reunion and invite as many people as you can reach.
  9. Know the law. Sometimes we think we can get through a situation on our own and end up in hot water. This is when it's important to consult a family lawyer. For example, grown siblings often find themselves in major disputes when they have to split up their parents' belongings after death. A lawyer can be a mediator in situations like this. Other times, during separation, divorce, child custody or adoption, while you may think you can handle the stress anxiety yourself, a lawyer might be able to make the process simpler and more straightforward, which is easier on everyone.
  10. Bring in a third party. In some cases, you may feel as though some problems can never be resolved. This is when it may be necessary to seek a family therapist or a family lawyer, depending on the situation. A family therapist can help strengthen relationships by providing neutral ground for meetings, discussion starting points and mediation when things get heavy. A therapist will also stop arguments before they go overboard, so nobody can say something they might regret later.
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