Now that the flurry of holiday activities is behind us, the New Year arrives with a sense of renewal and possibility. Our guest blogger and my friend Kim Fredrickson, MFT, is the author of “Give Yourself a Break: Turning your inner critic into a compassionate friend”. She offers some insights to inspire a New Year family resolution that strengthens bonds in a world where cyber-powered communication, social media and 24-hour news feeds can inspire hostility in the home.
When I relate to my family with warmth, I approach my family kindly and gently, whenever possible. Warmth is the home base you start and respond from, even when your kids are misbehaving or messing up. Warmth doesn’t mean there are no consequences for bad behavior. It does mean making sure you express warmth and kindness for your child, teen or spouse even when you are upset with them. Warmth communicates openness, builds trust, and lessens defensiveness others feel when confronted with a problem.
Practical applications of warmth:
- One-on-one time, no devices
- Letting your child, teen or spouse know you are in their corner no matter what
- Eye contact with kind eyes
- Approaching a confrontation gently, expressing the good in the person along with adjustments needed
Building empathy into a family is the most powerful way of helping family members know they are understood and valued. We truly empathize with another when we communicate understanding of their thoughts and feelings. We listen for how they are thinking and feeling in a certain situation, not how I might think or feel in that same situation. Empathy seeks to understand what underlying pain or situation led to a family member’s actions, even if we disagree or are upset with them.
Practical applications of empathy:
- One-on-one time, no devices
- Listen, listen, listen…to truly understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings
- Responding with validation of what you heard, “So you were embarrassed when you were being put down at school, and even though you knew you shouldn’t you hit Johnny. It was a horrible experience for you. You didn’t know what else to do.”
Respect shows up in families when members are treated with both grace and truth. Truth is shared without yelling, arguing or put-downs. Respect for family members flows from the knowledge that each one is a precious creation of God, and deserves to be treated as such. Family members feel respected when they are listened to, allowed to make mistakes, and not micromanaged.
Practical applications of respect:
- Establish house rules: no name calling, yelling, or one sided conversations
- Listen and validate what you heard the other person say. You are doing so to make sure you understand and they feel heard, not to indicate your approval.
- Allow mistakes and natural consequences. Accept that most learning comes from messing up. Use your child’s mistakes to treat them with warmth, empathy and respect and help them learn from their struggles.
If you find yourself micromanaging, stop and work on yourself…not them.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).