5 Keys to Mastering Family Dynamics
With the holiday season fast approaching, time spent with family increases. Add this increased time with the addition of aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas and cousins, and you can have quite an interesting family dynamic. The more people you have involved in any one situation, the more effort it takes to manage the different personalities.
Last year in our home was Christmas as usual. My mom, brother and his fiancé were in town and staying with us, so our normal family of four became a family of seven. My mom, being the lovely party planner that she is, prepared a delicious Christmas Eve meal complete with appetizers and a full course dinner. In an effort to make everything nice for everyone, my mother sometimes prepares a bit too much food. We all know this about my mom, but it can still be a family joke. My brother, in jest, made a comment about my mom overdoing it, and the rest of us (not including mom) chimed in with laughter and additional teasing. Well, it wasn’t funny to my mom. As a matter of fact, she felt hurt and unappreciated.
Situations like this one can happen at any time in a family, but in this holiday season and beyond, we can learn to master family dynamics and reduce tension by paying attention to the following five areas.
Put 10 different people in a room and they will all have different needs. To further complicate things, our needs can fluctuate depending on how well we are taking care of our needs. When the basic needs of sleep and food are not being met, everything else is elevated, so start by making sure you and everyone else is getting plenty of rest, and taking time for regular meals.
Beyond that, you can begin by communicating your needs. If you have a need to simplify or a need to feel appreciated, let people know. Because each of us has different needs, sometimes we don’t understand what another person needs. Ask your family members what they need to feel happy and comfortable. With an understanding of each person’s needs, you can learn to compromise and balance the needs of the family as a whole.
If I asked 1000 moms to share with me their perspective on the state of the economy and what has caused it, I can assure you I would receive many different ideas. Some people would be adamant about their opinions while others would be more open minded. What causes many arguments in families is the need to be “right”, when in reality, what is right for one person is not right for another.
Work on expanding your perspective by being open to other possibilities. Is it possible for you to learn something from someone else? Be curious and explore other viewpoints with wonder. If you feel strongly about your point of view, that’s okay, but understand that others may feel just as strongly about their point of view. Our job is not to convince other people that we are right, but merely to share who we are, and to respect who other people are.
With the stress and busyness of the holidays often come flared emotions. We are tired and our resistance is down. While joy and happiness may be flying high, so too can anger and fear. Managing our own emotions is key to mastering family dynamics. Pay attention to what you are thinking and how that is affecting your emotional state. If you think someone is taking advantage of you, you are going to feel angry. Check out whether or not your thoughts or beliefs are indeed true.
Remember we live in a reality that is created by us. We can choose to change our reality by changing the way we see things. If you are feeling sad, look for the joy and practice gratitude. If anger is clouding your life, consider forgiveness and letting go. Replace fear with faith that God is in control of your life, and He will orchestrate His most perfect and amazing plan.
Dealing with the many personalities and needs of a family requires flexibility. Your most perfect plans will unravel at times, and flexibility allows us to roll with the ups and downs, and the ins and outs, of life. Flexibility keeps your energy flowing naturally. If you get stuck in rigidness, you will feel the stress of negative energy.
My ex-husband recently told me he wanted to take my older son Kai to St. Louis for the holidays. This request was something different than what we’ve been doing in prior years. If he and I were unable to be flexible with the holiday plans, we would not have been able to arrive at a workable solution for both of us. It was our flexibility that enabled both of our needs to be met.
In a family situation, we don’t live in a bubble. It can be easy to get caught up in our own world and miss the world that others live in. Sensitivity allows us to be hyper aware of what others may be feeling or needing. It helps us consider our actions; responding instead of reacting. When we are sensitive, we think about how our words might affect another human being.
More damage to relationships is done because of our insensitivity to other people. Sometimes it is not intended, but it happens because we are impulsive and wrapped up in our own self.
Family dynamics are made up of various relationships, and the way we interact in relationship with another human being is paramount to our success. By learning to balance the needs of everyone, staying open to the many different perspectives, managing our emotions and practicing flexibility and sensitivity, we can create harmonious family relationships.