We are born into families, we don’t choose families. As a consequence, for a great part of our formative years, we don’t really have a choice as to what are we exposed to or if are we fed, listened to, loved, taken care and much more. When we think of a normal family we might adhere to the usual shiny poster of two parents, mom, dad, and kids neat and clean, smiling to the camera and having fun.
But then when we think of our families, that do not have this glossy appearance, are a bit confused to establish if this is normal or not. And then, when we become parents ourselves, we might constantly worry if we are doing right. Are we a normal family?
Many parents ask themselves this question, but the fact is that there is no precise definition of normal, and we all have our own idea of ‘normal’. As you try to define that, then you should start by asking yourself these questions:
- Are we supporting each other?
- Do we love each other and show our love?
- Are we caring?
- Do we provide a sense of security and belonging?
- Do we freely talk to each other?
- Does everyone in our family feel important, esteemed, and genuinely respected?
- Do we find space to show some humor?
- Do we have rules in our family that all make their best to respect?
- Does everyone have his personal goals and needs and are they met?
- Are disagreements discussed without penalties and losing mutual respect?
Answering these questions can give you a good insight into your actual family situation. And more or less everyone is lacking something. There is not such a thing as a ‘perfect family. So here what you can do to improve the emotional health of your family and provide a more positive and flourishing environment.
Devote some thought and energy to the following
- Try to treat each child as an individual, unique human being. There are not two siblings alike when it comes to temperament and his own way of perceiving the world around him and interacting with others. Imagine having a child who is introverted and another who is extrovert. Do you think you can educate them the same, help them express their feelings the same, and motivate them through the same incentives? Low chances. When you became a parent for the first time, you went through a process of growth and learned something completely new to you, parenting. Then you thought of having another one, considering that now you do have some experience and it would cost you less effort. But, surprise, surprise…it seems that is again something completely new and like you have never done it before.
- Have e personal relationship with them. On a scale from 1 to 10, you love each of your kids 10 equally. But it is natural to have a different relationship with each. You have family time together, but you should have some time with each of your kids separately. They share your endless love, but they should have some personalized time too. With one kid you could watch Ice Age 2 and with the other climb on a tree and read a book. These experiences make them feel seen, respected for their individuality and make them understand that even when you are around chasing after the other kid, there is no doubt, you will be there for him when he needs you.
- Do not compare your kid with anyone, including their sibling. Something bad you can’t do to your kid is comparing him to others: you are not as smart as…, not as pretty as…, not as fast as…
Kids should learn skills so that they can explore their life and their world better, not because by doing so, they would make you proud. It is not their responsibility to make you proud. It is your responsibility to help your kid achieve his full potential. The moment you compare him or her with someone else you are under-lyingly saying: I wish I was the mom of that kid, not yours. And even worse when you compare it with his sibling: I am happy I am her mom, but not yours. How would you feel if your kid says to you: I loved the cookies that Jeff’s mom did for us. Why can’t you do the same?!- You would feel like you made for him hundreds of cookies, and he is just hit you with the pan in the face.
So, plainly eliminate comparisons.
- Have regular family routines. Your kids should have some structure and routine to feel safe. For example, they should know usual mealtimes, bedtimes, and some family celebration or vacations like a repeating pattern. You may celebrate the usual ones like Christmas, birthdays, religious holidays, etc. But you could also have some days that are special only for your family
- Establish what is realistic expectation for your child according to their age. Are you trying to raise a genius? Well, most of us are. But are you exhausting your kid and yourself in the attempts to do so? Are you allowing enough space for relaxation, free play, and self-care? You should be aware that kids have limitations as to what they can accomplish and burn out if you are not careful. But you too as a parent have your limitations, as to what you can accomplish, time-wise and brain-wise. Be mindful of the costs and set reasonable expectations for yourself and your child.
- Be a positive example. Are you asking from them certain behaviors you do not exercise yourself?
Do you keep promises? Do you have a moral compass? Do you respect others? As their most important role model, you should lead by example.