Family are like branches on a tree – we all grow in different directions, but our roots remain as one.
Why strengthen family?
Family / aiga / kainga / whānau strengthens our wellbeing – all family relationships have their ups and downs.
Occasional tension or arguments are part of everyday family life. We can learn how to cope with conflict and get skills about how to sort it out. But ongoing family conflict can be really stressful and overwhelming. Everyone needs a safe place. It can be hard if family and home doesn’t feel like a safe and supportive place.
Family obligations (like giving money), intergenerational misunderstandings, unrealistic expectations, and harsh physical discipline can all contribute to stress, depression and anxiety.
Sometimes it’s the little hassles from family, from what you wear to who you hang out with, that can seem unbearable. It may seem like no matter what you do, you can never please them.
There are some events that are known to be really stressful: like a divorce, a merged family, a new baby or moving house. It’s well known that these things are really hard for anyone to cope with.
BUT, so much evidence showd that families are also a solution to our resiliency – especially for young people. Families strengthen the mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of its young people. This is particularly true when there are stable family routines and there is a good emotional relationship with at least one person in the family.
Aunty Dee’s tips for strengthening family
Good communication between adults and young people is key to individual and family wellbeing. Take responsibility to initiate talking with your loved ones, along with the following actions and approaches.
Listening and hearing are not the same thing. Listening means paying attention, not interrupting, and showing you are interested through body language (smile, nod, affirm).
- Don’t have difficult conversations when you are feeling highly emotional, angry or upset
Cool off before talking about a problem. When you do talk about it, stick to the facts and try not to get overly emotional.
Have meals together if you can, spend quality time together. Have things you do together as a family as a treat, something you can all look forward to. This could be an annual regular family trip or outing to a beach, bach, whānau homestead, staying with relatives, to the islands or other special place.
- Show high levels of trust and respect towards each other
Practice saying out aloud to each other “I love you” (go on I dare you!) – if you don’t think you can do this, perhaps text or message it the first time. Show alofa through hugs, praise, smiles, and positive encouragement.
Spirituality is a personal journey of transformation, hope and courage, but something we can also do together as a family journey. Church elders and spiritual leaders are well placed to play an important role in strengthen families. They can provide support, information and create new initiatives within the church.