Building strong relationships with our family members is essential. We all hope our marriage lasts until death do us part and we desire to have a lasting influence and relationship with our children long after they grow up and move out of the house. However, healthy family relationships don’t just happen because we wish for them.
The divorce rates are high and so many adult children have broken relationships with their parents. I don’t know about you, but I desire more for my family. I am always on the lookout for ways in which we can improve our relationships and make them last.
Today I want to share some things that might be damaging the relationships in our families. We need to not only be aware of ways to improve our relationships, but we also must look for circumstances that might be causing direct harm to our relationships.
Not Meeting Each Other’s Needs
The reality is that we were made for community. God created humans because He desired to fellowship with us. God created Eve to be a companion for Adam because he recognized how important relationships and companionships are for us. We cannot and should not live in isolation.
However, relationships are hard work. There are expectations and desires and different ways of communicating that make having a relationship quite exhausting at times. When we’re talking about a family, you’re mixing up a lot of different people with different desires and expectations and communication methods and things can get very hairy, very fast.
Last night I had each member of my family take the 5 Love Languages assessment so we could determine which primary love language each of us has. (See links below.) I found out that my son and I have the same primary love language. We also have the same order of preference for all of the other love languages. However, my husband and daughter each have a different primary love language, but a very similar order of love languages as each other.
It was so eye opening to finally understand why it is so much easier for me to feel connected to my son and for my husband to feel connected to our daughter. When you’re speaking the same language, it makes your relationships so much easier!
But usually, we are paired up with someone who receives love differently than us, which means that it can feel like they don’t love us simply because they are speaking a different love language and not meeting our specific need for love. If you don’t already know how best your husband and children receive love, be sure to have some open conversations and possibly take the assessments to help you all get on the same page.
The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts book – this is the original book that explains the different love languages, their importance, and how to use them effectively
The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively – this book is specifically geared toward understanding how to speak the love language of our children to help parent them better
The 5 Love Languages Assessment for kids and adults – this is the quiz we used to figure out the love languages for each of our family members. The kid’s one starts at age 9, but I used it for my 7-year-old and 4-year-old and I think the results were still fairly accurate.
His Needs, Her Needs – this is a book by a different author, but it has a very similar message to the love languages. My husband and I read this book when we first got married and it is really good.
Money is a big part of life and it can’t be avoided. Everyone needs money to survive. From what I hear, even if you have plenty of money to survive, you still want more. The reality for many families though is that money is a huge struggle. For some, there is simply never enough money. No matter how much you work, how much you cut back, or how much you save, you always seem to be coming up short for the things you need.
For other families, the struggle isn’t with having enough money to meet your needs, but there are other issues with money. There might be disagreements over how to spend the money or when. There might be a mismatch of spenders and savers in a family. Or there may be difficulties with mismanagement and organization when it comes to money.
Constant financial stress can destroy relationships. When there are tension and arguments over money on a regular basis it can not only affect the marriage relationship, but also the kids involved. If your family is struggling financially, first, know that you are not alone. And second, make it a priority to relieve some of the financial stress and strain on your family.
Sit down as a family to have honest and open discussions about your finances to come up with a game plan. You’ll likely need to utilize some new tools to help you overcome your challenges. I highly recommend books by Dave Ramsey to help you get started and I would suggest creating a budget plan using a resource such as YNAB (You Need a Budget) to better manage your financial situation. Even in the direst of circumstances, there is always something that can be done. Do not give up, keep searching and working to find a solution to get the help your family needs to relieve the financial stress.
YNAB – my personal recommendation for Personal Budgeting Software (using this has made such a huge difference in my own family’s financial situation)
Financial Peace Junior – we use this curriculum and chore chart to help teach our kids about money
It has been said many times, but the rule on an airplane must be the rule for the rest of your life. In an emergency, you must always put on your oxygen mask first, before you help those around you. If you are constantly on the go, giving and taking care of everyone and everything around you, while ignoring yourself, you will soon find that you can’t take care of anyone or anything.
You are the only one who can truly take care of you and the only way for you to take care of the rest of the people and responsibilities in your life is to always bring the best version of yourself. You cannot be the best version of yourself if you never set aside time for self-care.
Self-care, in my opinion, does not include daily lattes and monthly massages. Self-care is so much more important than that. Self-care includes rest and relaxation, proper nutrition and exercise, as well as various hobbies or activities that can refresh and renew your soul.
The refreshing and renewing your soul aspect will look differently for everyone. For me, it means time alone to think and process things, time to write, time to read, and time spent with friends in a social setting on occasion. I don’t need to do all of these things every single day, but they do need to be a regular part of my schedule or I start to feel a little “off”.
Take some time to consider the activities that help you feel refreshed and renewed. Make a list and see if you can begin to implement them in your regular routine. Also look at your sleep schedule, nutrition, and physical activity levels to determine if you need to make any changes or adjustments. Be sure to consider all of the members of your family, everyone needs to prioritize self-care, even your kids. Make this a regular conversation topic in your home to be sure everyone is operating at their best.
Busy, busy, busy
If your family is constantly on the go it can cause a chronic low-level stress that can slowly erode your health and relationships. Not only does busy-ness wear you down physically, but it also keeps you from spending quality time together as a family.
Even if quality time is not the primary love language of the people in your family, you can’t have a relationship without time spent together. That is, by definition, how relationships work. It is great to watch your kids play sports and take them to church activities and get involved in volunteer opportunities, however, if you never get a chance to just be together as a family your relationships will soon suffer.
You need the chance to just relax and talk with each other, about anything and everything. Families need to spend time together recreationally, doing fun things like family game night or a hike in the woods. Be sure to take an honest look at all of the schedules in your family to make sure there is room for each other.
You may need to make difficult and painful decisions to let some things go. There might be some weekends where you cancel all plans and schedules and just hunker down together at home. Nothing is more valuable than the health of your family relationships. Make them a priority and be sure to specifically add quality family time to your weekly schedule.
The final thing I want to mention that can derail your family relationships is trust issues. Your first thought might have jumped to trust issues in your marriage, which is important. However, I want to also make sure we focus and consider the trust issues that we can inadvertently cause with our children.
Our children must have the confidence and security to know that they can come to us about anything. Our kids need us, as their parents, to be their safe place, otherwise, they will look for answers and security in all the wrong places. Especially as our kids get older. I’m sure you remember your own teenage years. It is often much easier to talk to our peers about our troubles instead of our parents, but who do you want your kids going to for advice?
Building the trust and confidence our kids need in our relationship starts when they are young. Prioritizing quality time alone to talk to our kids, having honest and open discussions (often with humor included can be great), and building a supportive relationship are important to begin working on while our kids are still little. Because if they reach adolescence and aren’t used to being able to talk openly with us, they will find someone else to talk with, and we might not like their choice.
Getting your kids to talk can be tough, especially when you want to get them to talk openly about their struggles. It can be easy to criticize or give advice. It can be easy to want to play the disciplinarian when our kid opens up about a bad choice or mistake they made. However, in order to keep the lines of communication open, often we just need to listen. We must turn off our desires and urge to fix and just let them talk. If they need help or advice, they will likely ask for it.
Take some time to evaluate your relationship with each person in your family. Are they able to open up and talk to you about the struggles they are facing? Are you quick to try to offer advice or fix things the moment they speak? When was the last time they shared something personal with you? If you discover that there might be some opportunity for improvement in your relationship begin to make some intentional changes. Schedule some alone time. Listen more. Criticize a lot less. It will take time, but every relationship can heal.
Today’s Action Step
I’ve shared a lot of different components of family relationships today. Read back through them and decide if there are any obstacles that might be hurting the relationships in your family. Schedule time this week for a family meeting to discuss the obstacle and begin making a plan to improve.
I’ve included lots of links for each of these obstacles to help you find additional help and resources to improve your family relationships. Be sure to pick up a book or read an extra article to get some additional advice on ways your family can make positive changes, starting today. It is never too late.