By Seth Streeter MS, CFP®, CDFA™
Founder and CEO
With the uncertainty of coronavirus (COVID-19), it has become more important than ever to define what wealth means to us, beyond just the amount of money we have. Family relations are often at the top of the list.
Please know, I am not a therapist or family relations expert. I am simply a 50 year old father, son, brother, partner, ex-husband and curious seeker who gets to listen to smart people share what has been their experience in their lives. This gathering and synthesizing collective wisdom is what I love to do and I want to share some of the pearls of wisdom I have accumulated in hopes of it improving people’s lives.
I have been lucky to facilitate retreats over the past 4 years to dive into the discussions. From this privileged seat, I have been able to hear what is working (and not working) for families from across the globe. Here are some tips I found from our peers on improving our current family dynamics.
1. Include your children in your activities and interests. Whether it is sharing with them your passion for classic rock, having them volunteer with you for a nonprofit, or bringing them to community events, try to include them. Let them get to know your different dimensions and make it fun.
2. Commit to the interests of your children. Most of us parents wear our cheerleader hats when it comes to our kids’ sports, music, and arts interests. But what else ignites your child? If they are playing a video game, try and play it with them. If they are learning to skateboard, carefully give it a try yourself. When kids see their parents trying to relate to them it can build a connection bridge.
3. Especially when your kids become teenagers, invest in their friends. By staying close to their peer group, and by being relatable, interested and fun, you will gain an important foothold into your teenager’s life as they mature into young adults.
4. Focus on strengths. While we want to help our kids improve in areas of weakness, we must not forget the importance of recognizing our children’s strengths. Identify what you see and use words of affirmation to acknowledge their gifts. For instance, “Wow Shane, your answers are so creative. Your mind finds ways to think outside the box and this is wonderful to see!”
5. Forgive quickly. This goes for all family relationships. From parents, to siblings to cousins, set clear boundaries for what you know is right and wrong, but accept people for who they are when you can, then forgive and move on. Not only will this help your family dynamics, it will be a healthier set point for your mental and emotional wellbeing as well. Unconditional love is just that, love without conditions. In the end, we want to share love as much as possible with those who are closest to us.
6. Create rituals. Reading a daily quote at breakfast, having a set Sunday dinner, tucking in our kids at night, taking a family walk to get ice cream on the weekend - these rituals will forge special bonding time that will remembered and likely replicated with their own children one day.
7. Communication is everything! Take the time to truly listen to those you care about most. Be intentional with your communication to clearly express yourself. Be willing to share vulnerably with your family. It will allow them to feel safer to do the same. Mindful communication will help you avoid many conflicts that arise out of miscommunication.
8. Be a role model for how you want your kids to behave. Actions speak louder than words. If you want them off their phones, demonstrate your ability to be off your phone during quality family time. If you want them to be kind to strangers, show them how you are kind to strangers. If you are an example of being calm and action-oriented during a crisis, they will take note. If you show them how you are open and curious, always soaking up new perspectives and insights, they will follow suit.
9. Have FUN together! While parenting can be serious business with lots of logistics, homework, away games and laundry to do, remember that your energy will directly translate to them. Don’t take things too seriously. Have fun and show them your playful side. Life is too short to always be a drill sergeant. Let them see the kid inside of you!
10. Make time for your family. This sounds basic, but it can be so challenging when we are active with our careers, balancing a household as well as an endless email inbox and a relentless calendar of meetings. Your spouse, children, parents and siblings are your BIG ROCKS in life. Allow your time allotment to reflect this prioritization.
11. Build your family legacy. Think about the family values and traditions you were raised with. Which of these would you like to make sure are passed on to your children and to your great grandchildren? What are new ways you would like to shape your family legacy during your lifetime? Writing down your top 10 family values and sharing them with your kids, while also inviting their input, is a great way to cement these priorities into your collective mindshare. These legacy values can be further embraced by writing a family mission statement that you place in the house and include with your estate planning documents. Creating a brief video with your mobile phone to share these values and stories that represent them is another strong practice. If your parents and siblings are available, you can ask them to send a video clip as well. They will appreciate your care to pass these gems forward.
I am lucky to call renowned psychologist and author, Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, a friend and one of my Developing Your 3.0 Vision for Life event resources. Elizabeth has had over 100 national media interviews, including The Today Show, Good Morning America and Dr. Oz on topics related to family health. I asked her to share a few of her top tips for maintaining strong and vibrant family relations, and this is what she said:
- Speak each other’s love
languages. Each person has their own way of hearing and communicating love. Find out what each family member’s love language is so they can receive the love that you have for them.
- Address conflict head on and learn to communicate without personalizing. Create an environment where each member of the family feels comfortable expressing their feelings. Learn to empathize with each person’s perspective and come together to address any issues.
- Take vacations together. Getting away from your usual routines to spend quality time as a family can be a great way to grow even closer.
These are a few of the powerful ideas shared. We would love to hear your ideas for maintaining healthy and thriving family dynamics as well. We can all help each other make this dimension of our lives one of our brightest!
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