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How to promote a positive family coexistence?

Unlike other years when children went to school and most parents left home for work, this year we are spending much more time together as a family. Although this may provide us with a greater possibility of sharing, coexistence can be a challenge since each member of the family has different personalities and opinions. Many times the spaces must be divided (sometimes these are small) and, of course, the different emotions that the pandemic has generated in each of us are added into the picture.

Given the characteristics of the context we are living in, we need to feel sheltered and protected. That is why it is important to promote good relationships at home and make of this space, a peaceful one. Here you will find some ideas on how to achieve this goal.

Love must be expressed

It is always important to remind our family members how valuable they are to us and how capable they are to achieve what they set out to do. For that:

– Speak words that encourage others. 

– Recognize and reinforce family achievements. 

Use your creativity

We must bear in mind that we are living in a completely new situation. Even though now we have fewer restrictions, we continue to take care of ourselves and many of the activities that we used to do can no longer be done. Therefore, we must be flexible, adapt and use our creativity to come up with new activities to do as a family.

Have hope

Although this situation may seem eternal, facing it with hope and optimism helps us to maintain positive thoughts and emotions that impact our state of mind and, consequently, the way in which we relate to our family. It is important to remember that like everything in life, what is happening now will also come to an end.

Establish spaces for family communication

It is known that communication is key when it comes to coexistence. Positive and appropriate communication improves understanding, develops empathy and trust between members and strengthens the bonds between them. Let’s not let the days go by without having special moments to talk and share. You can set a time of day (it can start on weekends) to have a space in which all the members of the family get together and comment on how the week has gone for them, what they have done, how they felt, what new things they learned, why they feel grateful for, etc. In this way, the family members will have a moment to share, express themselves and feel heard. We suggest this space to be consistent throughout time and that everyone commits to it as if it were any other activity of the week. In this way, all family members will internalize the idea that the key is sharing and communicating with each other.

Be consistent

To promote emotional security in our children, it is necessary to avoid giving them contradictory messages. This consistency must occur, mainly, in three aspects:

1.         What one parent says, the other must respect. Then you can talk with each other and express your agreement or disagreement in private, but for the child the message must be the same on both sides.

2.         In case of separated parents, neither should speak badly of the other in front of the child. This can cause rejection from child towards one of the parents or frustration when having to repress his feelings in front of one of them. Remember that adult problems are solved between adults and children should never be involved.

3.         Generate the security, for the children, that the reward or consequence will be fulfilled. That is, if we agree that in the face of a (desirable) behavior there will be a reward, we must accomplish this offer.

Don’t threaten

Threats create fear and dread in children. It is more effective to give a positive indication than threatening one. For example, instead of saying “if you don’t do the homework you can’t play”, you can say “do your homework and you will have an hour of play”.

Seek to control your emotions

This implies accepting that things are not always going to be the way that we would like or expect them to be. By doing so, frustrations are avoided and we will face the situations from a more flexible posture. Remember that we cannot always control what happens and we must seek to adapt and make the most out of each situation. Also remember that we do not make the best decisions when we are upset or angry. Therefore, when we are feeling this way, before correcting or addressing our children, it is better to take a few minutes to breathe deeply and reduce the intensity of our emotion.

Respect the different emotions that the other may be feeling

We have to understand and accept that although we are all going through the same situation, each one has a different way of perceiving reality and we also acquire different emotional states. Therefore, we must learn to listen and validate what the other one tells us.

Practice compassion

Compassion is defined as an awareness of your own suffering and the suffering of others that is accompanied by a deep commitment to try to alleviate it. It implies a motivation to achieve well-being. Compassion includes three main elements:

1.         Be aware and be open to your own suffering.

2.         Be kind to yourself, don’t judge and don’t condemn yourself.

3.         Be kind, do not judge and do not condemn others.

4.         Share your experiences of suffering with others instead of feeling  

             alone and ashamed.

It is important to be empathetic with our family members; that means to put yourself in someone else’s position and seek to understand it. Also, another key aspect is to compose ourselves and try to get ahead by carrying out actions that can help us to feel good.

Example is stronger than words

Let us remember that as parents, we are permanent role models for our children, so we must show through our actions what is right and wrong. However, our children must also observe that we can make mistakes, but that we recognize and learn from them to improve and avoid repeating them.

Comply with the established schedule 

We must respect class and study spaces. When our children are focused on these activities, let’s avoid giving them directions that are not related to school. Likewise, it is equally important to respect their spaces for recreation and fun. 

References:

Brenes, A. R. B. (2014). Convivencia en el contexto familiar: un aprendizaje para construir cultura de paz. Revista Electrónica” Actualidades Investigativas en Educación”, 14(1), 1-19

Gilbert, P. (2014). Terapia centrada en la compasión. Editorial Desclée de Brouwer.

By Maya Sordo – Psychology practicing

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