January is the month we celebrate families of all kinds. This is a day to celebrate peace and sharing.

Families can come in many forms
Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash

Often when we think of families the picture of two parents and their children come to mind. However, our understanding of the meaning of family has expanded through different generations and encompasses a wide variety of families.

Each family can be be different varying in gender, culture, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, dynamics and structure.

We can see “traditional families” consisting of a mom, a dad, and kids. Families are formed by LGBT couples and kids, married couples without kids, cohabitating partners, family units including extended family such as grandparents, uncles, aunts, nices, nephews, etc.

Although families are usually related by blood or marriage, this doesn’t have to be the case for every family. A family unit can be created by any group of individuals that love, protect, teach, and help each other. The main purpose of a family is the well-being of its members and society.

It is important to keep in mind any relationship takes work and patience. Every family will experience happy moments and rocky situations where disagreements or misunderstandings happen.

The value of family is to know how to love each other in spite of our differences. Maintaining healthy family relationships can be vital to healthy and positive mental health. Healthy communication skills are key to create a loving and safe environment for everyone at home.

When communicating with others, it is important to be conscious about what we really think/feel, how we express those thoughts/emotions, and how this can be perceived by the other person. Some helpful skills include,

  • Active listening: Sincerely try to understand what the person is saying instead of using this time to think about what to say next. Don’t let a conversation or discussion turn into a competition
  • Stay focused: Work in solving CURRENT issues. Trying to bring up past hurts or other topics can confuse everyone involved without a resolution. Keep your feelings and solutions in the present and what can you all do now.
  • Use “I” statements: These statements help you express what you need, think, and feel. And allow you to take responsibility for the issue at hand. “You” statements can sound accusatory and make others fell attacked or become defensive. Statements such as: “I feel…”, “I need…”, “I did…”
  • Look for compromise: Compromising takes work for both parties where both aim to look for a solution and are willing to give up something and gain something positive. A compromise should always be a two-way street and not a single person’s effort.
  • Take a time-out: When a discussion gets too heated, our feelings can get the best of us. It is best to cool off and come back to the discussion with a calm attitude to reach a solution. This time out must not be used to avoid discussions and never return to them. It is best when we can solve problems instead of leaving them unresolved.
  • Ask for help: If communication is too hard and it often ends in no resolution and hurt, you might need an objective third party that can help. Couples counseling or family therapy can provide help with altercations and teach skills to resolve future conflict. If your partner doesn’t want to go, you can still often benefit from going alone.
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Family relationships can be a great protective factor. Protective factors are conditions and attributes that help individuals cope with stressful events and mitigate mental health risks. Individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, personality disorders, etc can benefit from a healthy family environment including strong emotional support, increased self-esteem, positive thinking, goal making, reduced risk for suicide, strong social connections, accepting and forgiving, role models, parenting skills, etc.

Treasure your family and work to better your relationship with each member. Every healthy family takes effort and love from every member. Although families can be difficult sometimes, they can be a group of people that will always have your back and accompany you through life in your best and worst moments.

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

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