Creating a Loving, Nurturing Family
Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open and rules are flexible – the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.
Feelings of worth can certainly come from what we do, in work and school life, and other activities that we enjoy. But the most important feelings of self-worth are rooted in our day-to-day experiences of family life. The family that learns to foster feelings of self-worth through deeply felt connections to others creates a loving family atmosphere….an atmosphere where people grow and flourish as human “beings.”
So many of us are caught up in the “mechanics” of living – driving children to school and extracurricular activities, working, maintaining a home, community responsibilities, appointments, homework, playing video games, staying on top of spending, college classes, watching television, etc. We have become a “doing” society, developing the skill of multi-tasking in order to make it all happen. So much to do…so little time! The consequences of constantly doing, rather than “being,” impact the family in ways we have come to accept. Many families have built physical and emotional disconnectedness into their everyday experiences and expectations. The feeling of connectedness and belonging is potent, and encourages physical and psychological health, including the ability to fight off illness. So how do we create a family atmosphere that focuses on the “state of being” of the family, rather than the “doing?” Here are some easy ways to create a loving and nurturing family:
Create a family atmosphere that values each person’s uniqueness and promotes a sense of belonging – Help family members identify and celebrate their strengths by becoming aware of what it is that they do well, how they handled a specific situation, or simply stating one of their values, such as, “I know that helping others is really important to you.” Show family members that their differences and ways of being are “treasured” by the family.
Tell each other that you love them….and why – Do it often and make it personal by identifying one of their traits that you value, and sharing it with them. Just knowing that someone loves us and is paying attention to us strengthens family bonds and helps us overcome life’s obstacles.
Practice the power of touch – Touching is a loving way to nurture and comfort each other. Children develop into loving, caring adults when they receive gentle touching. Give random hugs and kisses at home, touch the side of their face or rub their backs while they drift off to sleep. For adults, the benefits of showing affection through lovingly touching each other can last a lifetime. When parents hug in front of the children, they provide a loving model for them, and give them a much needed sense of security, knowing that their parent’s bond is strong.
Listen with both the head and the heart – Put aside criticisms, judgments and hidden agendas. Give your full attention, maintain eye contact, try to take on the other person’s point of view, acknowledge his/her feelings, show understanding by restating what they said and asking, “Is that right?”
Schedule “Family Meetings” – Every type of family combination can benefit from family meetings. They are an excellent way to share ideas and feelings, practice problem-solving skills and build family unity. Collectively identify a plan for meeting dates, times and meeting guidelines, so that even the youngest child can feel a sense of belonging and ownership.
Ensure “fun times” in the life of your family – The effects of humor stay with us and create a more relaxed feeling. Make family time a time when being “silly” is allowed and encouraged. Laugh together – tell stupid jokes at mealtime, watch a funny movie together, play games, make fun of yourself, and read jokebooks together.
Learn and laugh from mistakes - Create an atmosphere where family members can feel safe in acknowledging mistakes, without feeling judged. Don’t play the “blame and shame” game. Help family members recover from their mistakes by talking about what happened with them and providing support and encouragement. Most importantly, don’t equate “making a mistake” with “being a mistake.” Help build their self-confidence again in a loving way.
Sit down for a family meal – Whether the family consists of two people or eight people, eating together is a symbol of love, connection and communication. Many families now say that they have no time, with all of the children’s activities after school. But there are ways to find time to schedule meals together, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Get creative…make it fun!
Focusing on the quality of time “being” with our family, cultivating and nurturing love and respect for one another, helps each member to grow and flourish in a very complicated and stressful society. It all begins with paying attention, and deciding to “change things up” a bit.