Tomorrow is 'Parent Mental Health Day', and this year's theme is all about 'creating positive relationships' in families. I was asked by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy to put together some tips based around this theme. I hope that they are helpful! Click here to read the original article on the BACP website, and read on to hear what I had to say.
Tips for creating positive relationships in families:
Listen, listen, listen. It’s amazing how much we think we know about what our loved ones have to say. This means that sometimes we listen with our ears shut, pre-empting their words, and planning our response. The more actively we listen to each other, the more engaged and connected we feel. And if our loved ones feel as if they are being ‘listened to’ then they are more likely to open up when they really need our support.
Quality over quantity. The quality of the time that we spend together far outweighs the amount of time we spend in each other’s company. So when we do have time with our families, find ways to actively enjoy each other’s company. Turn off your devices and distractions. Find activities that everyone can enjoy. And remember that family time doesn’t have to always be spent as a group. One-to-one time is incredibly valuable in order for us to build our individual bonds with each member of our family.
Eat meals together. There’s a reason why shared, family meals feature at the centre of festivities and cultural celebrations. When we are sat around a table, we’re making eye contact, we’re relaxing, and we are sharing a simple, human pleasure. And the shared experience shouldn’t begin and end when we sit down and when we leave the table. Cooking together and clearing up together might seem boring and mundane. But these shared experiences are all a part of family life, and they set the tone for what we expect from each other in our family unit.
It’s not about being perfect. Here’s the good news. Perfection really isn’t the goal in our relationships. If we try to be the perfect mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Cut yourself some slack. Good relationships are about consistency, communication and owning up to our mistakes. Families are a great opportunity for us to learn about ’rupture and repair’, about healing relationships when we get things wrong.
Try to leave your stresses at the door. This one isn’t always easy. But when we return home after a hard day, it’s easy to let our stresses spill over into family life. To displace our anger or anxiety onto our family, and metaphorically ‘kick the cat’ - when we take out our frustrations on other people. Figure out what you need to do at the end of your day at work, or at school, in order to put your stresses aside and enjoy your time together.
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