Q. I have become concerned about the day to day dynamics of my family. My two teenagers only come out of their rooms to eat and go to the bathroom. My husband is quiet, stays to himself a lot and reads. I can’t wait to get everything done and hit the bed. Basically our family time feels more like every one’s alone time. How can I change this?
A. Unfortunately your family dynamics sound like many other families who are too busy to spend quality time together. Alone time should also be encouraged, everyone needs some personal down time. But balance and moderation should be the goal.
Here are some qualities that help build healthy families:
1. Connectedness – This is what you seem to be lacking. Is it possible to set aside an evening during the week for family time, i.e., play games, order pizza and watch a movie together or eat as a family as many times as you can. This affords an opportunity to share your day and show interest in each other. NO ONE BRINGS THEIR PHONE TO THE DINNER TABLE!!! Everyone will survive.
2. Acceptance – Each person accepts the other, avoids judgment and creates a comfortable environment.
3. Appreciation – This really goes a long way. How often do you tell your spouse or your children how much you appreciate them?
4. Safety – All family members need to feel safe and secure in their surroundings.
5. Boundaries – It is important that parents be parents and not friends. It is equally important for parents to model healthy boundaries for their children. Adults need to have healthy boundaries with each other.
6. Truthfulness – Mean what you say. Children learn truth and honesty by the people around them. This sounds like a common sense statement but how many adults say and act one way but expect their children “to get it right?”
A family meeting is a good way to start making changes. Everyone attends the meeting. Have a list of topics to discuss. Make it short but to the point. Ask for feedback from all family members. This is important. Everyone may not get exactly what they want but the idea is to introduce changes are coming. Then meet again, continue to take inventory on how things are going.
Be consistent. Be committed. Your children are only children for so long. Now is the time!!
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
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