In my September Charity & Children article, I referenced 12 suggestions for keeping our families strong and alive. Below is a list of my first six suggestions with the addition of the final six suggestions:
1. Share your personal problems and ideas. 2. Divide responsibilities according to age, interest and capability. 3. Instill moral behavior in all family members and hold them accountable for high moral standards. 4. Find times to be together as a family. 5. Establish your family on a strong religious foundation. 6. Respect the individually of each family member, including the right to privacy and independent thinking. 7. Bring generations together in order to begin or maintain special family traditions. Keep a thorough family history. Wherever possible, allow children to have plenty of time with their grandparents. If there are no grandparents in the family, it is still important for children to have a connection with people of all ages. There are many people, especially older adults, who don’t have anyone to be family to him or her. This gives all of us an opportunity to reach out and bless them with our interest and attention. In the process, our own family will be blessed, grow and thrive. 8. Learn to listen. Listening take time. I find it much harder to listen than I do to talk. Family members “talk over” one another. Few of us do much active listening. Active listening hears feelings as well as words. A good listener can be a good helper. This goes right along with respect and sharing. If we practice “selective hearing” rather than fully listening, our family members will come to know that there is no need to try to talk to us. A strong family is a listening family. 9. Find time to talk together. Mealtime is excellent, but often this is a stress-filled and tense time. Even a few minutes to let each person “report” on his day’s activities is better than nothing. And if your family never has a meal together, then perhaps you need this suggestion more than most. Once again, I suggest that you “set aside” opportunities to talk to each other. A former staff member of BCH once told me that she looked for opportunities when her children were a “captive audience” in the car. She would take along stories and object lessons to share that they would remember years later. All five of her children have grown into adults who give of themselves to others. 10. Encourage friendships and experiences outside the family. Too much togetherness can stifle growth. Husbands shouldn’t resent their wives participating in cultural and educational opportunities. And vise-versa. Not every experience can or must be shared within the exclusive confines of the family. The growth and enrichment of each family member enriches the entire family. Think of the scope of learning that each member of the family can derive from the experiences other family members share with them. 11. Learn to confront problems head on. Communication is the key. Don’t nurse grudges or harbor resentments. When a problem arises, deal with it immediately. Problems multiply when they aren’t handled quickly. Communicate, communicate, communicate. It is more important than ever in this fast-paced, hectic and uncertain world in which we live. A good principle to remember is that it is in confronting that you prove that you really care about the other person. Those who don’t confront, most often don’t care. 12. Ask for outside help when needed. We can’t solve all our problems alone. Sometimes other family members can’t help either. The most courageous thing to do is to seek the help of an outside counselor, friend or minister. Families whose communication process has broken down can and should seek outside help if they are going to survive. It takes wisdom and courage to take this most important step when it is needed. Family members need to support one another in decisions like these. Remember, there is no magic ingredient that will make a family strong. It takes every member working together and seeking the mind of Christ to make a family the grandest creation in God’s beautiful world.