FAMILIAL RELATIONSHIPS

By the time I hit my teenage years I realized my family was far from normal; that my ideas of what was normal seemed to be in reality, extraordinary.

The conversation around familial relationships can be controversial. For some, relationships with family members are wonderful. They might be supportive, loving, and free of judgement. For others, the topic of family relationships may be triggering. There may be intense traumas, wounding, and lack of love within their family dynamics.

Regardless of where you sit on the pendulum of emotions that may surface when you think of your family, there is one thing I want to offer you to consider. You are responsible for your thoughts and feelings regarding your family. Any feelings, whether positive or negative, are created within you. The circumstances you have and/or will experience with family are up to your interpretation. This doesn’t mean the actions of others should be condoned. It simply means that you get to keep your emotional power, regardless of your experiences with your family.

Growing up, I always thought I had a normal family, like The Simpsons cartoon. My parents were loving and encouraging to us children, and they obviously loved each other very much. My siblings were fun, taught me, picked on me, and overall we got along great as a unit. I adored my family, and I still do. However, by the time I hit my teenage years I realized my family was far from normal; that my ideas of what was normal seemed to be in reality, extraordinary.

During my teenage years, I learned about the pain and trauma other people had experienced through their family relationships. Some of the things I had heard of were so intense, I couldn’t fathom. Other’s traumas and pains around family relationships have been brought into my awareness even more as an adult. I think it is important to mention that you are not required to maintain a relationship with any person you do not want to. You have permission to step away from a relationship and make it complete.

If you want to cultivate a healthy and meaningful relationship with a family member, I have a few suggestions for you.

Let go of judgement, intentionally treat your relationships with friendly goodwill, and watch things shift in a positive way.

1. Anything your family says or does has no significance on your life until you allow it to. You could have had arguments that left you resentful, experienced unfaithfulness that left you feeling betrayed, been given gifts that made you feel appreciated, or had the most incredible hugs leaving you to feel so full of love. Regardless of your past experiences with your family, the circumstances have no meaning until you give them meaning. The way you think about what your family says or does will determine how you feel about them and their actions, and that is fully within your control.

2. Make an effort to get some quality time together. When you have agency over your thoughts and feelings, you can spend time with your family and decide ahead of time exactly how you want to feel. You could choose to go into your time spent together with the intention of connection, support, or love. Deciding ahead of time how you want to approach your time spent with family can give you a metaphorical destination, and you can get there regardless of any speed bumps that might show up for you. This can be helpful during gatherings which typically induce stress. The holidays are an example of time spent that has historically been stressful for me. Using this approach is a game changer.

3. Hold grace in your heart for one another. Of course you can only hold up your end of the bargain when it comes to this, but you are the most important factor here. We are all on our own journey in life, with different pains, pleasures, and experiences. We have no idea what is really going on in each other’s lives, and when you take that into consideration it might make it a little easier to have some grace for your family. Especially if they typically trigger you. Part of holding grace in your heart is letting go of any judgements you may have had about others. Your judgement does not change anyone, it only hurts you. Let go of judgement, intentionally treat your relationships with friendly goodwill, and watch things shift in a positive way.

4. Communicate with authenticity from a place of response rather than reaction. This suggestion may be a huge challenge. Personally, I’ve had a history of a short fuse; however, my practice of allowing my emotions to flow and process through me without reacting to them has led me to a place of thoughtful and authentic response. If you are noticing any emotion bubble up inside you, remember that you are creating it. Sit with the emotion and allow it to process. If you are able to go through this without reacting to your emotion, you can show up to communicate in your relationships from a raw and authentic place, eliminating volatility or explosive reaction. Communication is a major key to any relationship, no less your familial relationships. Communicate with honesty, vulnerability, courage, and openness; if you need some time to process your emotions before you get to this point, take your time.

These are just a few of the lessons I have learned and tips I can offer to help build meaningful relationships with family. Our family relationships may be the most impactful on our lives, and I believe it is important to do our part in cultivating these relationships in a healthy way. While this may be challenging for people to do, there are many avenues to seek which might help individuals to improve their relationships with family members. Therapy is a great way to address familial issues from the past, while Coaching is a wonderful way to work towards a desirable family relationship in the future.

If you have any questions about family relationships, or wish to seek some coaching on any relationship in your life, reach out any time. You can email me at jonahboersma@gmail.com and I will assist.

Do you have any tips for cultivating a healthy and meaningful family relationship?

We are all ears! Leave a comment below, and share your wisdom.

Be well, friends!

Jonah

Our family relationships may be the most impactful on our lives, and I believe it is important to do our part in cultivating these relationships in a healthy way.

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