ENRICHING FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS!!!
Introduction: ‘Family’ is a single word, having varied connotations. People have many ways of defining a family and can differ in what being part of a family means to them. Families may differ in economic, cultural, social, and other contexts, but what every family has in common, is that the people who call themselves a family are making it clear that those people are important to them in a special way!
Families are a source of emotional support, love, security and protection. Healthy family relation- ships result in happy and secure children and give parents the ultimate reward of being instrumental in the life of their children. Healthy families empower each family member in important ways and help provide a unique sense of belonging and value that is rare to find in other relationships. The benefits of healthy families are far-reaching, long-lasting and all encompassing.
Nevertheless, because families are made of people and people are different, (just as each individual has a different set of finger prints so individuals do have different personalities), they have differ- ences of opinion, they have different ways of communicating, they face different challenges at any particular point in time in their lives, they have different moods; and these differences could some- times be a source of conflict within families.
Conflict, can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive, based on how we approach, en- gage in and navigate the conflict. Disagreements with family members do not have to be relation- ship-damaging experiences. Arguments do not always have to end badly. Instead, constructive conflict can occur, and our relationships can be strengthened rather than weakened by conflicts — unfortunately for most of us, the experience of conflicts in interpersonal relationships may not be a positive one.
Root Causes: Most conflicts can be traced to a few primary areas of life, specifically related to individual desires and expectations. Understanding how a conflict starts can help with effectively navigating and ultimately resolving it. Personality differences (even twins are said to have differ- ences in personality!) can increase the chances of conflict. Conflict most often starts due to differ- ent ideas and goals for a situation or a relationship.
Conflict sometimes can also be caused by unmet needs and expectations. A family member at- tempting to control a situation, to gain power and to change other people and their opinions, may lead to conflict. Sometimes, conflict may develop indirectly as a result of an already damaged or unstable relationship. For example, previously unresolved conflicts can increase the likelihood of their future eruptions.
Differences in communication styles, such as overly expressive or highly minimal nonverbal com- munication, can also lead to conflicts especially when misunderstandings or miscommunications occur.
Regardless of how it starts, conflict in a family can ultimately strengthen or weaken a relationship. We need to be proactive and learn to avoid approaching conflicts in destructive ways. We need to seek out and learn effective conflict resolution skills. It is also advisable to enter in any conflict situation committed to maintaining relationships, considering the different desires, needs and goals of those involved, and committed to seeing that the relationship grows stronger as a result of the conflict.
Without a healthy family relationship, it can feel like we have no one to turn to in times of crisis and difficulties. Family members are there for us whenever we need them. Healthy family rela- tionships do not come automatically……..they come with investing quality time and effort.
Approaches to Prevention: Since love is the basis of any family relationship, it is important to nurture that love, especially by the elders of the family who carry this heavy responsibility. Com- municating kindly to one another, being there for one another at times of need, simple day to day communication, laughter and fun with one another go a long way in building strong relationships.
In the event of a potentially brewing conflict, primary communication skills for resolving conflict successfully would be crucial. One should strive to navigate an argument effectively. This includes keeping the focus on a single issue and avoiding personal attacks or opening up past issues. Stewart Levine, in “Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict Into Collaboration,” stresses that reaching resolution involves “addressing your real concerns” and “getting to the core of the conflict.”
Sometimes a major source of conflict could be in relation to the distribution of finances and other assets. Succession Planning is very important for sustaining the wealth in a family, which is a result of immense hard work from the elders of the family. This should be well thought out whilst parents are hale and hearty and they should decide on how they want their assets to be distributed within members of their family when they will not be around anymore. In this regard, preparing a Will thus becomes very important. Communication of the same to members of the family may be a personal decision of the elders, but this could go a long way in keeping the family united and happy. After all, isn’t this the ultimate goal of every parent for their children?
An important fact to remember is that situations involving conflict can be further complicated by how family members respond. Responding with love, being empathetic, i.e. understanding the other person’s point of view, can play a very important role in resolving conflict.
Conclusion: Finally in conclusion, each individual should look to ‘define’ a family by his own standards, enriching any dictionary’s definition. We can have several families in our lifetime, even several families at once if we choose. Regardless of how we choose to define our family unit, whether it is traditional or unique, our definition of the family unit should be a definition that works for us. As the saying goes, “Family is what you make it.” Whether made of blood relatives or friends or neighbors , or a combination of these, our family most certainly offers us the support we need to grow and thrive!!!
Members of the Jamat who wish to have more information are encouraged to refer to the following
websites/materials that have been used as references in preparing this article: –
Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict Into Collaboration by Stewart Levine
In the meantime, if you have any questions or wish to have more information on a particular matter, please feel free to contact any CAB member. Our contact information has been placed on all Jamat-