Go on and join that gym, get that facial and make over your
wardrobe with all of those gift cards you scored over the holidays.
While you're at it, make over your family, too. Don't go getting
all "Jillian" on them and make them cry on a treadmill. No, I'm
just suggesting that you take stock of your family's life. What's
working? What isn't?
A family makeover need not be inspired by some deep, dark
"pathology," by the way. In fact, all families, just like cars, can
benefit from routine maintenance or "tune-ups" from time to time.
And you don't even have to visit a therapist. Instead, simply take
"inventory" at your next family meeting (check out my tips for
holding a family meeting at ChicagoParent.com).
Things to consider:
What are your goals for your family? What are everyone
What does your family do well that makes reaching these goals
possible? What's working that you'd each like to see continue? What
traditions are you proud of?
On the other hand, what isn't working so well? What gets in the
way? Steering your language away from words like "bad" and
"fault"-avoid assigning any blame-can help to keep the conversation
light and the discussion rolling. As I see it, any two (or more)
people can peacefully coexist, but that only works when individual
egos take a back seat to the needs of the group. In this case, the
group is your family.
Needing to be "right" and always casting someone else as the bad
guy or the "problem" may feel satisfying in the short-term, but
will need to be sacrificed if your goal truly is family
As a team, figure out what's working and keep doing it. Then
decide what isn't and replace it. This process is about hearing
what each person sees as the goal for the family-and for
themselves-and deciding if those agendas match up or can be amended
enough to be productive. If not, will they chronically collide in
ways that are destructive to one or more of you? If you discover
relational land mines that, in spite of your best efforts, keep
being "tripped," you may want to enlist the support of a good
If everyone shares at least the same basic premise that the goal
is for everyone to feel safe and nurtured, regular tune-ups can
keep your family humming nicely. Facing the limits and the
possibilities of your family will make it stronger, and enable each
of you-and your family, to thrive.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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