The 10 Commandments of Family Harmony
by Mark Sichel, LCSW
Family feuds can cause depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, sadness, confusion and rage. No one wants to live like that! Here are some simple rules for turning family feuds into family fun. Try following some of the Ten Commandments of Family Harmony to find some familial relief.
l. THOU SHALT ZIP IT.
Learn to think before you speak. Bite your tongue before that provocative
remark comes out of your mouth and you get embroiled in a huge fight.
2. THOU SHALT CLEAN THY SPLEEN.
Write a really hateful, nasty letter to your family, telling them all your
resentments and rages. Drop the letter into your personal "dead letter box";
and move on with a smile on your face. :)
To get rid of some resentments right now, visit the Psybersquare Junkyard.
3. THOU SHALT LISTEN. THOU SHALT NOT DISPUTE.
Hey, words are only words. Sometimes people vent frustration in inappropriate ways by going on wild diatribes. Don't get sucked down to their level. When your Mom blows her top and starts howling about the time you came home late when you were nineteen and how you never come to see her any more and how Mrs. Johnson's daughter is SUCH a better daughter than you... you can hear her out and simply say, "I'm sorry you feel that way." When your mom cools off, she'll probably feel bad, but you won't have to. Avoiding that tit-for-tat argument kept you from having to spend a week in the "burn center."
4. THOU SHALT REMEMBER: GOOD FENCES MAKE FOR GOOD FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS.
Create boundaries, set limits. You know how much contact you can take and how
much will ignite your internal nuclear bomb.
To learn more about how to set healthy and respectful boundaries, take a look at Boundaries and Barriers.
5. THOU SHALT REMEMBER OCCASIONS AND EVENTS.
It costs merely 34 cents postage by snail mail, zip if your family's on e-mail,
to remember birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa.
Whatever the occasion, a card makes people feel remembered, and when people
feel remembered, they feel loved and hence, another feud is avoided.
6. THOU SHALT NOT OVERREACT, EVER.
When family members feel neglected, they often will present a scenario that
invites your overreaction. Invites? Heck, BEGS for it! But remember -- overreactions can cause all-out wars. Don't do it!
Need to learn what your hot spots are? Learn to anticipate and avoid overreaction by discovering that Forewarned is Forearmed.
7. THOU SHALT GIVE IN.
If you want to win the war (or in our case, avoid the war all together), sometimes it's strategically advantageous to lose the battle. Assess a family
situation carefully, strategize, and weigh your gains and loses in any given
situation. For example, if your ageing mom needs a weekly phone call to avoid
starting a fight with you, why not give it to her? Is the inconvenience of the call really weightier than the inconvenience of a brawl? Practice artful dodging if necessary, call when you know she won't be there and leave a message telling her you love her and miss her. A little can go a long way.
8. THOU SHALT LET BREVITY AND PAUCITY BE THY MOTTO.
In volatile families, keeping contact limited and utilizing a cordial and
polite silence to avoid fights, can often extinguish the flames of conflict. Again, artful dodging is a useful tool. If your Dad calls and you can tell he's looking for trouble: "Got to go Dad, the Pastor's at the door for his annual visit. Speak to you later!"
9. THOU SHALT CHANT: "WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET."
Do not ever try to change your relatives. Remember, people can change
themselves, but we cannot force another to change. Accept your family for who they are, whether you like them or not: trying to change another causes battles, poor self-esteem (because you're trying to do something that can't be done and are doomed to failure), and depression.
10. THOU SHALT STAY IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT.
Take control of potentially volatile family situations and take charge of
managing them. For example, if you come from an alcoholic family and you know
that going out to dinner means that cocktail hour is the main course and
family flambe is the dessert, arrange breakfast meetings where drinking won't occur.
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