The most vital ingredient of a successful, emotionally fulfilling family is family connection; the capacity to communicate, recognize, support, encourage and improve relationships among family members. Each family member must feel heard, understood, valued, wanted, and cared for to develop consistent and caring emotional connections between child, parent, and spouse/partner. If we want our children to grow up with respect and self-confidence, we must give them all the love, acceptance, and support they need. This involves establishing early in life, a family bond that will strengthen that bond throughout their lives.
The first step in building family connections is defining each family’s roles and responsibilities. Who has the responsibility to be a provider? Who has the authority to discipline? Who is responsible for making and implementing family resolutions?
The second step in family connections is learning about and establishing effective relationships with other caregivers. A great way to build family connections is to establish peer learning communities where family members can express their fears and to learn new skills. This helps make it easier for families to get support when needed.
A third important part of building a family connection with low-income families is to participate in programs, activities, and center based services that are offered by local, state, federal and social agencies. These services allow families to participate in activities that promote healthy interaction among caregivers and those who attend them. These early learning opportunities provide an environment in which low income families can learn a variety of skills that they can use to interact positively with others and to develop skills that will help them later in life. These programs and activities can also serve as a time for family members to spend time with each other and strengthen their relationships.
The fourth step in family learning community is to develop professional relationships with other professionals such as teachers, healthcare providers, school nurses and other school administrators. These professionals can offer advice and assistance in many areas. They can also be a source of information for families who are struggling with difficult situations. They can provide information on community resources that may be available to families who need support. In addition, they can provide information on professional organizations that provide support services for families who are experiencing difficulties.
The fifth and most important part of building family connections with low income families is to make sure that you, as a caregiver, practice all the skills that you learn through family learning communities. It is essential to your own sense of well being that you practice these skills as often as possible. While the concept of family learning community might at first seem strange, it is based on research indicating that people who participate in such groups have better mental health, work with more self confidence, and experience less stress. Participating in a family learning community provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment that is important to a wide variety of people.
The seventh and most crucial part of building family connections is to offer encouragement to the other caregivers. If you care for a child with special needs or another family member who experiences a challenging situation, offering help can often make the difference between struggling and thriving. Many families are able to thrive when members of the family work together to provide services for the other. Envision yourself as a part of that successful team today.
Once you have worked on developing your own personal and professional network of support, you can then begin to extend this network to other families experiencing similar struggles. This provides a sense of security and a sense of belonging that is important for healthy family relations. When you offer your expertise and guidance, others will want to work with you because you represent the personification of stability, success and well-being. In a society where instability is pervasive, stable, successful people are in great demand! Be that caregiver who builds that family connection. You will be glad you did.