Browse the self-help section of any bookstore or library and you will likely find a sea of books about creating and maintaining a healthy and harmonious family life. Belonging to a loving, secure family unit is a basic human desire. Most of us can readily see the value of close family connections.
A strong family can be a source of emotional support, love, security and protection, which makes the challenges and trials of day-to-day living easier to face. Children flourish when they feel loved, nurtured and supported by their parents and siblings. A good family life can even have positive effects on your physical and mental health, including improving blood pressure and increasing life expectancy.
Certainly, God wants our families to succeed and prosper. He designed the family to be the basic building block of society; thus in order for our communities to be stable, the families that comprise them must be as well. And ultimately, God wants us to have spiritually healthy families so we can produce godly offspring (Deuteronomy 6:7), the best time spent together is everyday casual time, without distractions like TV, music headphones, video games and smart phones, ” notes David Register, pastor of COGWA’s Redding, Sacramento and Stockton, California, congregations. “The real key to building relationships is to spend time together in all types of circumstances, including mundane, daily activities.”
Members of strong families spend a lot of time engaged in conversation with each other. “To understand each other, family members have to invest the time necessary to share their feelings, opinions, concerns and perspectives, ” Mr. Maranville says.
Much of their communication occurs while they are spending time together. No subject is considered off-limits. They may talk about routine topics like their weekend plans or what happened at school or work, or about the deeper, more serious issues of life. If there are particular issues affecting the family, they may plan special family meetings to discuss them.
Making time for conversation is just half the equation. Strong families also work at developing constructive communication skills. This includes learning to be open and honest, but still speaking in a loving manner (Ephesians 4:29); listening carefully, without distractions; and not “mind-reading” or jumping to false conclusions when another person is speaking.
By practicing good communication skills, family members show they respect and are genuinely interested in each other.
To be a truly successful family, Mr. Maranville says it is vital to not only feel appreciation, but to express it: “Appreciation helps motivate family members to continue to behave in a positive way toward each other. It also helps build confidence within a person, so we have the wherewithal to meet obstacles that are inevitably going to come our way.”
Appreciation should be expressed frequently, both verbally and with meaningful gestures. This might be done by telling your spouse how much you enjoyed the dinner he or she prepared, or by saying “thank you” to your children after they cleaned the kitchen. These same sentiments can be expressed by leaving notes somewhere for family members to find, such as in their lunch boxes, or even sending text messages.
But appreciation shouldn’t be limited to thanking others for what they do for you. Let family members know how special they are. Tell your spouse and children what qualities you most value in them. Say “I love you” often. Praise their strengths and accomplishments. Let them know you enjoy spending time with them. Done sincerely, expressions of love and appreciation deepen the bond between family members and strengthen the family unit.
Jesus Christ taught His followers: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). Healthy families do their best to live by this “Golden Rule.” Individuals in the family consider how others will be affected when making important decisions. Before speaking, they think about whether they would want to be on the receiving end of what they’re about to say.
“When we treat others, especially our family members, as we would hope and want to be treated, then we can achieve the fruits of a high-functioning family, ” Mr. Register says. “This should be the goal of every family: to create an atmosphere in which each family member feels loved and is inspired to work for the common family goals.”
Ultimately, God wants us to have spiritually healthy families so we can produce godly offspring and expand His family.
Sometimes this means sacrificing personal desires in order to encourage or support another person. A husband may forgo what he’d like to do on his day off to make his kids happy. A wife may go camping with her husband, even though it’s not her idea of a fun time. Putting the welfare of others above our own is the essence of Ephesians 4:26). Each person knows the other cares about the relationship, even though they clashed on a particular issue.
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