Having your own family is a wonderful thing. Being married, having a lifetime partner, raising children, it is all an experience like no other. Sometimes we get so bogged down in everyday life that we forget this can be the most interpersonal relationship we will ever have. Typically speaking, we only have our children for 18 years; compared to an average lifetime, that is hardly any time at all. Having a game plan of how to keep it all running smoothly is a great idea. A few key tips to keeping it altogether are to decide what cultural principles are important to your family, listen to each other's viewpoints, communicate openly and fairly, do not be afraid to apologize when needed, and have fun together.
Decide what cultural principles are important to your family-
This seems like a simple step, but it is a good foundation for future problems. By examining what direction you would like to see your family in helps to mold your day to day interactions. If your life is faith based, obviously your focus will be God centered and the rest of your life will be molded around that. You should decide if ideally you would like for both parents to work, or if one will stay at home with children, which that will be. These a big decisions that should not be taken lightly. Even if it is not affordable for a parent to stay home at the present time, yet that is what you desire, put a plan in motion to help achieve that goal.
Listen to each other's viewpoints-
Listening is such a crucial step in relationships. Listening allows the other person/people to know that you have interest in what they are saying and that they are valuable to you. The steps of listening are: receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating and responding. I state these to remind you that responding is the last step. We should not interrupt our children/spouses in the middle of their conversations. It is very important that we complete the other steps before responding in order to effectively communicate. Remembering is also very important, to make someone feel that they are significant, we should remember what they take the time to tell us.
Communicate open and fairly-
Open verbal communication in a family is very helpful in keeping the household running smoothly. Everyone has their own opinions and needs and should be able to express those. One key to verbal communication is to distinguish between facts and inferences. To have a productive conversation, inferences should be held at bay while the facts carry the conversation. This makes it easier for the message to be received openly and clearly. Polarization should also be avoided, try to keep the conversation centered. Do not go from one extreme to the other, use fair conversation. Remember that this is your family and you want the relationship to be as strong as possible. Use words in a productive manner rather than a self destructive way.
Don't be afraid to apologize when needed-
When being part of a family, things can happen or be said that should not have. When this happens, feelings get hurt and the relationship suffers because of it. Often times people are too afraid to apologize and admit to wrong doing. By admitting you were in the wrong is essentially admitting that you have fault; that is ok. There is no one that is perfect, anyone that says they are would be a lair. By admitting your own imperfections and wrongdoings you are letting your family know that you recognize the importance of their relationship in your life. Doing this only helps to strengthen the home.
Have fun together-
Do not forget this step, it is a big one! Find ways for your family to enjoy being around each other. Play games together in your free time; whether board games, card games, sports, bike riding, whatever your family interest are, do them, together. Also go on vacations as a family unit. Even if you can not afford weeklong vacations you could always go camping, go visit out of town family, just get out of the everyday mundane rut. This will help you to bond on a daily basis and avoid having your relationships to fall into the deterioration stage.
All of these steps should help you to maintain a happy, well balanced home. We buy insurance for everything from electronics to houses; think of these steps like free insurance for your family's relationship. The only cost is the time it takes you to implement these into daily life. By doing so, all members of your household will realize what a significant role they play in your life, and they will know that they are valued. I believe being proactive is the best way to keep relationships focused and healthy.