Maybe world peace is a little out of your reach this year, but family peace isn't. There are five simple but powerful things you can do to reduce stress and conflict, and bring your family closer.
Family relationships, especially relationships between generations -- parents and teens, grandparents and parents -- can be difficult to navigate, but the rewards are worth the effort. Most people think they need to do big things, but it's the small things you do on a regular basis that count most.
Here are five top tips to get you started:
Listen First: One of the biggest problems in family relationships is rushing in with your own opinions and advice before you really understand the situation. To get productive conversations going, use phrases like "Tell me about it" and "So you feel like..."
Family Time: Regular family time is key to building and maintaining family bonds. Parents and children should aim to eat one meal together each day. If possible, grandparents should come over once a week or there should be a regular time for a family phone conference. Share things that are happening in your life, and ask lots of questions about things your children are interested in.
Second Chances: Parents need to give their children second chances -- even when the children are all grown up and are parents themselves! One couple was so upset by their grandchild's "disrespectful" behavior that they didn't speak to the parents or see the grandchild for a year. You can always find a reason to justify your anger. Find a bigger reason to let go of it. Put the relationship first.
Less TV, More Books: Start your own family book club, with adults and children taking turns choosing books. It's a great way to build children's reading skills, and a chance to cuddle close and talk. Picture books are an evocative, short read for all ages that can bring up many important topics for discussion.
Give and Take: Family relationships involve reciprocity, giving when it's needed. A parent needs to let their teen make mistakes, as long as the consequences aren't life threatening. Parents can make sure grandparents get thank you notes from grandchildren for gifts they've sent so that they feel appreciated. Building goodwill helps everyone over the long run and sets a positive model for children.