Family relationships can be the wind in your back when they’re healthy and relatively stress-free. Whether they’re a constant you can count on, a connection that offers you comfort, guidance, and strength, or a part of your life that positively impacts your health and well-being, families are great… sort of.
We do need to underline that there’s a difference between healthy and unhealthy family relationships. With a healthy family, you can prosper, grow up with a foundation for trusting, proactive relationships with others, and feel like you’re on top of the world because you have people rooting for you.
With an unhealthy family, on the other hand, you can experience a ripple effect that negatively affects your work, friends, finances, and even your health. A highly-conflicted, stress-filled family can be extremely exhausting and emotionally draining, deprive you of support, and create additional stress.
Families are supposed to be there for you, but what do you do when you don’t have a “traditional” family? What do you do when you don’t understand the role of your extended family, reconstituted family, or communal family? What are family relationships, anyway? Read more down below!
What are family relationships?
Family relationships might be a little difficult to define. For the most part, these are relationships that consist of parents, carers, guardians, grandparents, siblings, and other people you consider your family. A family can consist of people you share an emotional bond with because they’ve been there for you, too.
And, before we move on, we do need to mention that a family relationship can change depending on your circumstances, life experiences, and changes you go through. A family doesn’t need to consist of a mother, father, and siblings to be a healthy one – healthy families are versatile.
A nuclear family, an extended family, a reconstituted family, a single-parent family, and a communal family are some of the family relationship types you might encounter or experience down the line. A healthy family relationship depends on a myriad of factors, none of which are members of the family.
What does a healthy family relationship look like?
Whether you’re struggling with romantic relationships, work relationships, or family relationships, you need to keep an eye on a few things. Relationships can be built from scratch with plenty of patience, affection, appreciation, communication, commitment, and time together.
We’re focusing on family relationships, but we’re pretty sure that these tips and tricks can work on other types of relationships, too. What does a healthy family relationship look like? First things first, healthy families help, support, and respect one another.
Maybe they come together every day to talk about what’s going on, spend time together, and make decisions together. Perhaps they solve problems together or encourage and build each other up.
Furthermore, healthy families trust one another, set boundaries with clear consequences, and communicate openly and honestly about everything. Finally, healthy families come with strong coping skills, deal with challenges and crisis head-on, and help one another no matter what.
Within a healthy family, you feel safe and secure, supported, appreciated, and taken care of. You lead a stress-free life thanks to the support you get from your family.
What does an unhealthy family relationship look like?
We need to differentiate between unhealthy family relationships and abusive family relationships. Abusive family relationships are defined by cruel or violent behavior that’s regular or repeated. Within an abusive relationship, the perpetrator uses abusive behavior to harm and control a member of the family.
We do need to mention that family violence comes in many different forms of physical and emotional abuse and that it might not be easy to spot, report, or break free from.
Unhealthy family relationships, on the other hand, are defined by behaviors that aren’t healthy. Poor communication, little to no respect, lack of boundaries, lack of equality, and lack of affection are some of the signs you might notice when you’re a part of an unhealthy family relationship.
Conflict, misbehavior, and abuse are common, too. You might feel forced to accept negative treatment and act like you’re happy with your family relationship because you’re devoid of an open space to express your thoughts and feelings freely.
We can’t forget that healthy families go through tough times and hit rough patches, too. Conflict and stress are a part of every relationship, but what makes healthy relationships different from unhealthy ones happens to be the ability to keep conflict at bay, reduce stress, and deal with common family issues easily.
How to build a healthy family relationship?
1. Spend quality time together
Spending quality time with your family makes a world of difference. Whether you agree to have dinner together every night and talk about your day or you go on weekend trips and picnics to have fun together and forget about the weekdays, that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you do what’s best for you and your family. Leave your phone at home. Leave your stress, anxiety, and depression at home. Leave whatever’s weighing you down at home. Spontaneous or planned, spending quality time together can make or break your family dynamic.
Strong families respect each other’s struggles, share each other’s interests, and enjoy each other’s company.
2. Work on proper, positive communication
Now, happy and healthy families oftentimes share breakfasts, brunches, or dinners because that’s the best way to bond – over food. But there’s a catch. Before you start a Sunday tradition with your family, make sure you work on proper, positive communication.
Criticisms, putdowns, and name-calling can make your family relationship go from a healthy one to an unhealthy one before you even know what’s going on.
Be patient with your family members. Be understanding of what they’re going through. Be supportive. When you’re able to do that, you’re going to notice a change for the better.
3. Show affection and appreciation
Words are not the only way to show affection and appreciation. Whether you surprise your family members with little gifts here and there, take them out for dinner, or shower them with affection with simple acts of service, that’s up to you.
Whatever you do, though, make sure you always remember to make your family members feel seen, supported, and taken care of. A simple “thank you” and “I love you” go a long way, too. At the end of the day, everybody wants to know that they’re doing something right and that they’re appreciated.
4. Acknowledge and celebrate each other’s talents, differences, and strengths
When you’re a part of a big family, you might be tempted to get annoyed or angry with everyone around you all the time.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that because you’re probably overwhelmed and overstimulated when you’re hanging out with a myriad of different personalities, opinions, and expectations on a regular.
However, there’s a way you can combat that, though. Remember to celebrate each other’s talents, differences, and strengths and correct each other’s shortcomings rather than dwell on what-ifs and what-could-have-beens.
5. Address family prejudices, family drama, and sibling rivalry
When healthy families witness family prejudices, family drama, and sibling rivalry, they address them right away.
Whether that means that they talk things through, shut down things like throwing shade, talking behind each other’s backs, and pitting people against each other, or stop picking favorites, that’s up to the family to decide.
When you turn a blind eye to these things, you create a sense of “lawlessness” that might make some of the family members feel like they can get away with anything. A healthy family relationship needs rules, regulations, and boundaries, there’s no question about that.
6. Establish traditions, values and goals
We know that might sound silly, but establishing traditions, values, and goals can be a great way of connecting with members of your family. Maybe you can sit down together and figure out whether you want to have a family get-together every April or a Christmas tradition that celebrates your family.
Maybe you can compete against each other to see who can save the most money throughout the year to go on a family vacation at the end of the year. Whatever you do, make sure everyone’s on board and everyone understands the concept of traditions, values, and goals.
7. Be patient, tolerant, and open-minded
Family relationships are complicated, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a wasted effort. With plenty of patience and tolerance, you can keep your family happy and healthy throughout the years.
When you respect each other, care for each other, and make spending quality time with each other a priority, there’s nothing you and your family can’t do. What’s the point of your family having your back if you can’t cut them some slack when they mess something up?
8. Value fun, laughter, and good time
When you’re down in the dumps, remember to value fun, laughter, and a good time with your family. You and your family deserve to have some time off playing games together, having a water balloon or snowball fight outdoors, baking cookies, and thinking of silly nicknames for each other.
You need an outlet for your stress, and your family can be the best outlet you’ve ever had – you simply need to put certain things into perspective. Your family can be the best medicine physically, psychologically, and spiritually.