FAMILY should be a safety net—how is yours holding up?

Image“When you are young, your whole life is about fun. Then, you grow up and learn to be cautious. You could break a bone or a heart. You look before you leap, and sometimes you don’t leap at all because there’s not always someone to catch you. And in life, there is no safety net.”   -unknown

I was in a department store the other day walking the video isle when I heard a young couple planning a game night on the isle next to me and discussing who should be invited. It sounded like a family game night, so it was funny to hear the husband chime in honestly “I am not sure I want to invite (so and so) she is such a killjoy.” The honest, real conversation hit me & I continued to listen..this is real life, I thought. The couple continued to debate if they should invite a specific family member & then relented knowing they ‘should.’  They called her right then and there & it was funny to hear the husband invite, then add in some possible reasons why they may not be able to come, like we won’t have anything for the kids to do or if you don’t want to, we understand. It was so interesting to hear every side of the situation from one isle over. I thought, I knew it, this does really happen!! It was just strange to actually hear it happening.

Family dynamics are an interesting thing—we all have them, some good relationships, some interesting characters, some people we don’t get along with, moments of love and hate, sarcasm or wit, lots of history together, heartbreak or heart song.

So, let me ask you this…Where do you fit in your family dynamic?? Are you a builder, a prankster, a lover, a listener, the funny one, the sarcastic one, the introvert, the extrovert, the socialite, the one who sits in the corner, the peacemaker…every one is different. Each person has their strengths, their insecurities, the way they fit, the moments they don’t.

Here are some tips, tricks and things to think about to help your family dynamic:

How well do you REALLY know your family?? have you spent enough time with them to begin to understand their likes, dislikes, their favorite hobbies, the way they joke, things that light them up, things they struggle with, the way they communicate, etc. If you don’t feel you know them as well as you should, begin to plan get togethers, have fun question and answer moments, pull out cards and have a game, while you talk about different topics.

Face time: When was the last time you had a one on one conversation with your siblings? Do you talk to them each week, monthly, daily, once a year, etc. Specific face time gives you an opportunity to get to know them, listen to their needs, begin to understand them in a personal place. Sometimes family dynamics brings about groups clicking, huddling up with specific people, jokes about one or another family member, etc, so be aware and take that personal time to have them on a one-on-one level.

Remember the golden rule: as a child we all remember our parents saying…”treat others as you would like to be treated.”  Are you treating your family the way you would want to be treated? Are you loving and kind? Are you always teasing or jabbing in fun? Do you find yourself not wanting to invite one or the other family member to a game night or event? Begin to put yourself in others shoes & try to understand how they are feeling—not invited, not involved with everyone, etc. Think of the golden rule—how would you like to be treated?

Avoid Sarcasm: In our family we grew up with the motto…”Don’t be sarcastic–its the lowest from of humor” or “Scar-casm”—even though this was our family motto my siblings are very sarcastic, sometimes very funny, other times, not so much—usually at the cost of others feelings. Indeed, it’s not surprising that the origin of the word sarcasm derives from the Greek word “sarkazein” which literally means “to tear or strip the flesh off.”  Hence, it’s no wonder that sarcasm is often preceded by the word “cutting” and that it hurts.   Here is a great article on sarcasm—title: Think Sarcasm is Funny? Think again. by Psychology today

Avoid labeling: Sure there have been times when you may have been difficult in certain situations, maybe you were the ‘black sheep’, the trouble maker, the goody goody…People may have a tendency to hold you hostage to your past behaviors, the way you use to do things, the reputation you use to have, but hold on…people do and can change, so try to avoid labeling anyone…especially your family. Give them the benefit of the doubt, learn about them at every stage within their life and love them through.

Keep your word: When you say something–mean it. Trust happens between friends, lovers and family. Do you leave your kids with someone to babysit them and then not show up on time (because they are family)? Do you arrive when a family event is planned or are you always late? Showing up on time shows you care. If you have a child, you know how important your word is—they will hold you to it. It is something sacred, it builds on the relationship between child and parent, it is your word that binds you & if it gets broken, so do feelings. So, why would adult relationships be any different?? Avoid mis-trust and frustration—keep your word. I think sometimes it is easier to abuse family in different situations, but keep this in mind…you are your word.

Have boundaries: we often are used, abused, mis-treated, mis-understood by those closest to us, so sometimes we need to have personal boundaries from those we love. You may need to have perimeters around how many days you take care of other people’s kids. Maybe you can only be around your mother-in-law once a month, not every Sunday. Maybe you need to speak your truth about a hurtful situation someone created. Maybe you just need to say No. It is okay to have boundaries. You will be better for it, which then allows you to be better for those situations. It is a win-win for everyone.       **Side note: a great song about Speaking your truth is by Sara Bareilles “Brave”

Be Kinder: I just went through a tough family situation where I needed to speak some truths, get out some negative feelings & learned a lot through it all—about myself, my feelings, but mostly realizing…I just wanted people to be kinder.

Family should be a place of safety, security, building, love and kindness. When those qualities get stripped away, we need to begin to try and find things that will help re-build the safety net that should be family. Family consists of those people who should be lifting you, building you to your best, allowing you to be who you are, freely sharing feelings, loving unconditionally. These are the people you have grown up with, they sometimes know you better than anyone else, they are the people who have been placed in your life to hopefully make it better, happier, worthwhile.

There is learning in all things—what are you learning from your family??

Something to think about.

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