Positive relationships for families: how to build them

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Positive relationships for families: why they’re important
Strong and positive family relationships are enjoyable for their own sake – it just feels good to be part of a warm and loving family.

But positive family relationships are important for many other reasons too. They:

help children feel secure and loved, which gives them confidence to explore their world, try new things and learn
make it easier for your family to solve problems, resolve conflict and respect differences of opinion
give children the skills they need to understand and build healthy and strong relationships.
This is why it’s worth maintaining and improving the relationships you share with your children and other family members.

There are plenty of simple things you can do to develop positive family relationships.

Quality time and family relationships
Quality family time is about making the most of the time you spend together as a family. Here are ways you can make quality time happen in your family:

Use everyday time together to talk and share a laugh. For example, family meals and car travel can be great times to catch up on the day.
Have time together when devices are turned off and out of sight. This helps to keep everyone focused on what you’re doing or talking about at the time.
Have one-on-one chats with each family member to strengthen individual relationships. It can just be 5 minutes before each child goes to bed.
Set aside time with your partner, if you have one. You could explain to your children that it’s good for your relationship with your partner to have this quality time alone together.
Do regular, fun things together as a family. This can be as simple as a family soccer game at the local park on Saturdays or a family board games night each week.
Have regular family meals together, and give everyone a role. For example, someone sets the table, someone clears the table, and someone washes up.

Positive communication and family relationships
Positive communication is about listening without judgment and expressing your thoughts and feelings openly and respectfully. It helps everybody feel understood, respected and valued, and this strengthens your relationships.

Try these positive communication ideas to strengthen your family relationships:

When your child or partner wants to talk, try to stop what you’re doing and actively listen. Give people time to express their points of view or feelings.
Be open to talking about difficult things – like mistakes – and all kinds of feelings, including anger, joy, frustration, fear and anxiety. But it’s best to wait until you’ve calmed down from strong emotions like anger before you talk about them.
Be ready for spontaneous conversations. For example, younger children often like to talk through their feelings when they’re in the bath or as they’re getting into bed.
Plan for difficult conversations, especially with teenagers. For example, sex, drugs, alcohol, academic difficulties and money are topics that families can find difficult to talk about. It helps to think through your feelings and values before these topics come up.
Encourage your children with praise. For example, ‘It’s a big help when you bring the bins in without being asked, Leo. Thanks!’
Let everyone in the family know that you love and appreciate them. This can be as simple as saying ‘I love you’ to your children each night when they go to bed.

Positive non-verbal communication
Not all communication happens in words, so it’s important to pay attention to the feelings that your children and partner express non-verbally. For example, your teenage child might not want to talk to you but might still come looking for the comfort of cuddles sometimes!

It’s also important to be aware of the non-verbal messages you send. For example, hugs, kisses and eye contact send the message that you want to be close to your child. But a grumpy tone of voice or a frown when you’re doing something together might send the message that you don’t want to be there.

Teamwork and family relationships
When your family is working as a team, everyone feels supported and able to contribute. It’s easier to work as a team when everyone understands where they stand, so it helps to have clear expectations, limits and boundaries.

You can encourage teamwork in these ways:
Share household chores. Even very young children can enjoy the feeling of belonging that comes from making a contribution.
Include children in decisions about things like family activities and holidays. Give everyone – including young children – a chance to have their say before you make the final decision. Family meetings can be a good way to do this.
Let children make some of their own decisions, depending on their abilities and maturity. For example, you might let your 12-year-old child decide whether to walk or cycle home from school.
Create family rules together that state clearly how your family wants to look after and treat its members. For example, ‘In our family we speak respectfully to each other’. Rules like this help everyone get along better and make family life more peaceful.
Work together to solve problems. This involves listening and thinking calmly, considering options, respecting people’s opinions, finding constructive solutions, and working towards compromises.

Appreciation for each other and family relationships
Valuing each other is at the heart of good family relationships. Here are ways you might be able to do this:

Take an interest in each other’s lives. For example, make time to go to each other’s sporting events, drama performances, art shows and so on.
Include everyone when you’re talking about the day’s events. For example, ‘What was the highlight for you today, Izzy?’

Share family stories and memories. These can help children appreciate things that aren’t obvious or that they’ve forgotten – for example, Mum’s sporting achievements when she was younger, or the way they helped care for their sibling as a baby.
Acknowledge each other’s differences, talents and abilities, and use each other’s strengths. For example, if you praise and thank your teenage child for listening to a younger sibling reading, your child will begin to see themselves as helpful and caring.

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