5 ways to love your family to life.
Family is the single-most influential structure we are ever part of as humans. It’s the place we can experience the most healing and the most heartbreak. The place that lays the foundation for how we interact with ourselves, others, and the world. For better or worse, family embeds itself deep into our souls, for life.
I know this is true for me. It manifests itself in the way I process emotion and how I communicate—all linking back, directly, to the family dynamics in my life. When something momentous happens, it’s family I want to tell. At the same time, family is often what I spend the most time in therapy processing. Family is messy. And beautiful. And inspiring…. And damaging, if not done right.
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” –George Bernard Shaw
The world needs healthy families to function, but we’re never taught how to “do family” well. If family is where identity is knit and where personal and societal health stems, it should be high on our priority list, if not first. So, where do we begin in loving our family to life? I don’t have the answers, but there are a handful of ways we can start.
1. Be a listener, first.
A family that listens to one another remain attune to each other’s needs. Giving full attention to the parent, spouse, and/or child who is speaking lets them know they’re valued and allows the opportunity to learn something new about them. Once we learn to posture ourselves as a listener first in our homes, we become a better listener for friends and in the workplace. Show love to your family by valuing what they have to say.
2. Say sorry, often.
There are few things more damaging to the human spirit than unresolved hurts and conflict. Though disagreements are a normal part of family life, lingering conflict usually creates relational distance. As conflicts pile up, it becomes too easy to end up like strangers in the same home. Learning to say sorry and ask for forgiveness not only repairs relationship and strengthens bonds, it also normalizes disagreements in life and makes the home a safe space for restoration.
3. Eat together.
In a world that is constantly on-the-go, a family rhythm that includes communing together over a meal often brings great respite for mental and emotional health. Even if it’s once a week, breaking bread together allows for deep connection, communication, and laughter that can heal the small parts of us left scattered throughout the week. Take the time to love each other over mealtime.
4. Build each other up.
It can be easy to focus on the negative in life. We often point out the things our children, spouse or parents aren’t doing, rather than encouraging them in the things they are. If we shift our focus to the beautiful, healthy, fun qualities of our family members, perhaps that encouragement would lead them to growth in other areas. I promise that speaking life over someone brings about growth a lot quicker.
5. “Date” your family.
Think about what it’s like when we first begin dating someone. We spend all our time learning the person, discovering their likes, dislikes, favorite color, and food. Then, we intentionally carve out time to do the activities that bring them joy. What if we did this with family? What if we focused on really knowing their ins-and-outs and spent time engaging in the things they enjoy? Surely our bonds of love would grow stronger, but perhaps it would also reveal to our family members the standard for how they should be treated.
Creating healthy families doesn’t have to be daunting or hard. Maybe it really comes down to simply treating others the way you want to be treated. To grow in our ability to humbly listen, ask for forgiveness, and focus on others’ strengths rather than their weaknesses. To focus on vulnerability, intentionally taking the time to know and be known in our homes. It may not be much, but it’s a start. And it starts with us―we are the homemakers, after all. May we take our role in this seriously, normalizing healthy homes that decrease cases of abuse and heal wounds simply through loving our family to life.