A family is a group of people or a social unit living together, and who are not necessarily related by blood, but ‘are supposed to’ care about each other. Although, most families are related by blood, some families are not. Foster children and adopted children are also family to their caregivers. The best way to describe a family is to state its major features, which are loyalty, concern, association, and influence. If there is a person in your life who is loyal to you, concerned about you, likes to associate with you (and makes an effort to do so), and has an influence in your life, such person is family to you; you do not necessarily have to be related by blood.
Having said that, I should state that regardless of what type of family you have, family conflict is not unusual; it happens everywhere. Familial disagreement, of course, is inevitable, but conflict can be controlled. Several factors can bring about conflict between family members. For example, difference in ideologies, beliefs, opinions, views, and perspectives among members of a family will unavoidably result in disagreements. Economic challenges (finance), and sibling rivalry are also some common causes.
Disagreements between people is perfectly normal, and can even have huge benefits, because it has the potential to bring about interpersonal understanding, tolerance, and general personal growth. However, disagreements that are not well-managed will likely develop into conflict. Conflict then leads to disharmony, ill-will, and estrangement (separation). Family disharmony results when disagreements and misunderstandings among family members are not well-managed. The disharmony deepens if the family has little or no idea of how to manage conflicts.
Every family member needs to feel valued and respected at home, a sense of security, and a sense of belonging. Home is where you go to when it’s cold or corrosive outside; family is supposed to be where you run to when the world turns their back on you. Therefore, what matters more in family relationship, isn’t the blame dumping, the ‘who is in the right’, the ‘who is older and younger’, but rather, how can we be there for one another regardless of our imperfections? No one is perfect, and we need one another’s support, not spiteful criticisms, to improve.
Therefore, how do we avoid family disharmony and strengthen family relationships?
Develop good interpersonal skills
Two of the most powerful forces in life are words and gestures. Words are so powerful that they can change another person’s destiny! They also have the ability to influence our moods. How you talk to one another in a family matters. Use constructive feedback, be willing to listen when others speak, show concern, and respect the ideas of other people, even if they are not very good ideas.
Diminishing your children or siblings because you are unhappy with how they have behaved will not do them any good. It will only lead to more problems that will go on to adversely affect your family in the long run. You, like the members of your family, will sometimes make bad decisions. And you, like them, can always improve, and should be given the chance to improve. Tolerance is therefore vital in exhibiting good interpersonal skills.
Build good family values
How a man treats his wife and children, and how a woman treats her husband and children, to a great extent determines what kinds of attitudes the children will manifest, and what values they will have. Dysfunctional parents will always raise dysfunctional children, and healthy parents will always raise healthy children. Teach your children good morals, and let them see that you are an embodiment of what you teach them.
Children who know that their parents love and respect each other will adopt the same attitudes, and this can be seen in how they relate with their siblings. They also carry on these wonderful attitudes, as they deal with people external to their family.
Develop mutual respect
There is no love without respect. When you respect a person, you do not degrade them, snub them, or ridicule them. Instead, you uplift them, show that you value them, and express your genuine concern for them. It is not enough to be concerned about your family members- you have to show it. Let them know that you care about them, as this will strengthen family ties.
A man who respects and values his wife indirectly teaches his sons to do the same to their future wives. And a woman who respects and values her husband indirectly teaches her daughters to do the same to their husbands. Abuse in the family will only go on to be a generational cycle. Respect in a family can also go on to be a generational cycle. Degrading your children can never be productive; instead, reprimand them with love. If you are a bit hard on them one moment, let them know you deeply care about them the next moment.
Be a role model
One of the functions of a parent in this life is to be a role model to his or her children. Children look up to their parents, from the very day they were born; there’s so much children learn from their parents. And if you are not a very good parent, you are not likely to raise a very good child. Children who witness family violence and domestic abuse have a tendency to do the same.
Therefore, to strengthen family relationships, we must be tolerant, understanding, show concern, exhibit loyalty, respect, and support one another, irrespective of our differences and regardless of the challenges that the family may be going through. You shouldn’t think that the next person is evil and annoying; you just have to see that he or she is ‘potentially good’. That’s the way to go!