By Lew Mi Yih
Building and maintaining positive relationship within the family is no easy feat. Family is like a puzzle, they come in all shapes and sizes and having to fit them together requires patience and skills. Mi Yih shares with you 5 "C" to help strengthen your family relationships.
1. Commit to Build Up (Each Other) by Word and Action
Our family is like a team that has different strengths and weaknesses. We need to discover and value the unique abilities of each member.
In our speech, do we use our words to rub salt into their wound or choose to help them overcome? Our choice of words makes a whole world of difference.
One thing I find helpful to strengthen relationship is to do little kind deeds for each other. It can be as simple as buying breakfast or doing the chores. It helps to affirm the commitment to build the relationship and support in practical action.
A good habit that we have in our home is to express appreciation to one another. It is as simple as thanking the person for cooking dinner or running an errand. Recent research shows that having an attitude of gratitude improves your mental health with a more positive outlook in life.
2. Connect by listening and affirming
We are so used to talking to get things done. Some of us are also good at telling others how we feel. But do we take time to really listen and understand what our family members are thinking or going through?
I remember when I just got married, there was a day on our way home, I was sharing with my husband a problem I had at work. He listened and offered some solutions, but I kept rejecting his ideas. He became frustrated. I felt myself getting upset and frustrated with him. Reflecting at the end of the day, I realised all I wanted was for him to listen and understand how I felt. I knew what I needed to do but just needed to feel heard. With that, I shared it with my husband to affirm his good intentions but also help him understand what I really needed.
We all have different expectations due to our life experience or personality. However, the key is to make these expectations known so as to minimise any misunderstanding or frustration. Sometimes, we need to agree to disagree at home.
The best thing we could do for each other is to listen attentively and reflect back what we have heard. It is also a good opportunity to clarify if we have heard correctly. The truth is we cannot read each other’s mind, but we can share what is on our minds. So it is okay if we have heard wrongly, but at least we can clarify and get it right.
There is a quote by C. S. Lewis “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it's thinking of yourself less.”
When we value the people around us, we are willing to humble ourselves for the sake to restore the relationship. I believe our family members will appreciate the honesty and reality of life that we may fail but there is always room to forgive and make amends. When we are willing to be vulnerable, it will allow the other person to lower their walls and share how they honestly feel.
How do we encourage our children to take responsibility for their mistakes? To create the atmosphere for amends, we can help by gently defusing any defence by assuring that we are not there to scold or blame them, but we are concerned about them and just want to find out what has happened. We can express our disappointment but make room for them to make it right. Every mistake is a great learning opportunity. So do not get too hung up on it.
4. Choose to Forgive
In my interaction with seniors, one of the common stories I hear is the bitterness that resulted from hurts inflicted by other family members who were not willing to admit their mistakes. What can we do if it happens to us? Do we choose to bear a grudge and find fault with the other party, so they feel your pain?
Or we can choose to forgive them. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behaviour but prevents their behaviour from destroying your heart. Unforgiveness weighs a person down with many emotional baggage and clouds their view towards life. I am not sure what you are going through in your family, but I can tell you forgiving someone liberates our hearts. Life journey is already challenging, and we definitely want to travel light and not live life with regret.
5. Care for Self and Others
As much as we are committed to build the family, do not to forget to care for yourself too. Family demands are real especially if you’re a working parent and a caregiver to your elderly parents. You can’t save another drowning person if you are drowning yourself. It is important that you are aware of your state of mind and emotions and remember to take time to recharge.
At times we need to learn to say no and ask for help. Make time to rest and reflect. Sometimes when we take time to reflect, we are better able to appreciate what we have and remember what is important for our family.