It feels like the world turned upside down in 2020. COVID-19 has plunged the economy into a global recession. It has infected tens of millions of people and taken the lives of almost a million people who were infected. Not to mention the social and cultural turmoil America is currently experiencing and the wildfires that are ravaging the West Coast.
With all these going on in the world, we all need support and comfort. Fostering strong bonds with our family is not always easy, but it’s also necessary if we want to survive times of upheaval. Experts say that community and connection are vital to getting through tough times.
Here are some tips for strengthening bonds with your family, whether you live with them or not.
Consider being honest about some of your hurts.
While trying to connect with family sounds nice on paper, in reality, it’s one of the hardest things an adult can do, especially for those who have experienced abuse, abandonment, or neglect. There is no one size fits all as every family is different, so consider attending family therapy to gain some understanding about your specific experience and to gain tools to help you.
It’s hard to build a relationship when you still have some bitterness and wounds in your heart. Consider communicating to them the truth of your lived experience so you can start from a clean slate. Do it only when you’re ready and only when you’re able to extend forgiveness, so you’re not doing it from a place of wanting to hurt them back. Even if they don’t respond well, at least you’ll know that you tried.
Come up with fun activities.
Being stuck at home with family can be stressful, but we can combat this by doing some fun activities with them. What are your family members’ hobbies and interests? Show interest and get involved even when they seem dull to you. Help out your dad with that car he’s fixing in the garage. Help your mom with cooking and gardening. Play video games with your siblings. Organize a game night with the whole family. Whatever it is, make sure it’s fun and helps distract the family from the devastating headlines, even for just a few hours.
Encourage, encourage, encourage.
According to Dr. John Gottman’s research on how marriages thrive and die, the four horsemen of the divorce apocalypse are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
It’s no surprise criticism came first on the list. One of the biggest ways we sabotage and ruin our relationships is by being overly critical and hurtful with our words. There’s nothing wrong with providing honest feedback, but when we do it in a way that tears the other person down, we lose our message.
If your family has a culture of speaking negatively and hurtfully, lead by example and talk to your family with kindness, tenderness, and encouragement. Even simple compliments about how they look or how delicious their cooking is can go a long way. Do it first and see how much it changes your family. It may take a while, but by showing that you will not participate in the toxicity, they might change the way they speak to you too.
Build a culture of support.
Encourage positive re-enforcement in the family by praising the good instead of focusing on the bad. If your kids get good grades, tell them you’re proud of them no matter what and that you’ll give them a prize if they keep it up. If your siblings start a business, support them by re-posting their publicity materials online instead of focusing on what’s wrong with the business. Little gestures can help our family members feel like they are supported in their endeavors.
Be there for them.
Your family members are most likely just as stressed, scared, and tired as you are. Show them that you are the kind of person they can run to when they need help.
Here are some ways you can show support:
- Listen to them when they need to get something off their chest. Don’t invalidate or be quick to offer solutions; sit, listen, and let them know that you hear them.
- Offer to help with some of their tasks, like house chores. If your siblings have small kids, offer to help babysit when they need to work.
- Offer to drive your parents to the doctor or the groceries.
Not All Families
Unfortunately, not all families are safe places. If you find that your family is toxic and abusive, know that you are well within your rights to set some boundaries. You can instead find support and comfort through friends who have become family to you throughout the years.
Meta title: How to Effectively Strengthen Family Bonds in Times of a Crisis
Meta description: With what’s going on in the world, we need support and comfort. Fostering bonds with our family is not easy, but it’s necessary if we want to survive.