Checklist for family caring hearts: The Dance of Life Article Series
By Dr. Joyce at The Caring Heart from Spokane Washington

March 2013

See Part One - What’s your family’s psychosocial health scorecard?)

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
(James 1:8)

We would all quickly agree we love our families and we surely do want each family member to do well.  We want all the kids to grow up to lead good lives and be successful. Right? As discussed in Part One, What’s your family’s psychosocial health scorecard?, family relationship patterns are crucial in promoting either good development or conversely, very bad development.  Here are a few areas of family functioning to consider, and some suggestions which, thoughtfully and consistently implemented, could improve anyone’s family atmosphere.  Family atmospheres and patterns need checkups, too.  After all, we take our vehicles in for checkups and servicing, we take our bodies in too, so we should check up on and improve our family functioning similarly.  What could be more important? 
Do family routines make sense?  Are needs and tasks taken care of and talked about in ways that are rational and easily understood?  Is good judgment consistently used?  For example, if children are provided with exorbitant amounts of toys and games, which they strew around the house, creating perpetual messes and ruining the toys, that does not make good sense.

Is there reasonable consistency in routines and expectations?  For example, dad says junior cannot have a new bike, because money is too short right now, and the next day dad comes home with a new motorcycle he bought because it was a good deal.  Too much of that sort of thing, and junior will lose confidence in dad, and won’t learn responsible patterns himself.

Do all family members have reasonable access to others’ time and attention?  Any relationship takes nurturing to maintain quality, especially those within a home.  Too many kids severely lack 1:1 time with parents, and grow up hurting.  As teenagers, they often find their primary relationships among “the wrong crowd.”  Too many marriage partners are “too busy” for each other.  Relationships end up just “going through the motions” without substantive meaning. 

Are there topics which are definitely taboo to bring up and openly discuss?  In my nuclear family as a child, God, love, sex, emotions and, it seems, so many similar topics just never could be mentioned.  When my dad wanted to talk about science at dinner time, which I was very interested in, my mother would firmly state, “You shouldn’t talk about that at the dinner table!” Traditionally, dinnertime together was a wonderful time for quality family sharing. 

Is each person shown value and worth by being fully included and by hearing affirmations, etc?

Consistent effort to keep connected, in a positive way, with all family members is needed.  No one should feel ignored or “put down,” which can cause self-esteem to really plummet, as the person feels unvalued, criticized, and unappreciated. Competitiveness, jealousies, and  rivalries usually abound.  Sensitivity, empathy, and compassion need to be ongoing for all, so each person feels at ease being open with the others, and not threatened.
The list of areas to look at could fill several volumes, I’m sure, but the point is that homes and family relationships need patterns, schedules, and routines that are stable, that make sense, and that are truly kind and humane. Out-of-control emotionality and fighting, of course, won’t “cut it.”  Too busy, perpetually hectic living is awful, and, on the other hand, so are  lifestyles where people are so lethargic they basically really are “couch potatoes” and extremely boring.  Household tasks need to be responsibly completed in a timely manner. Any lying or other dishonesty needs to go, and people need to be reassured that they can get their legitimate needs met without using some devious manipulation.  Being “upfront” and open are welcome and ok, and no one is modeling evasions and manipulations, or maliciously teasing.  I am very much in favor of giving people, including children, and animals as much choice as possible.  If there is no valid reason why my dogs shouldn’t go outside right now, for example, why not let them go outside?  Capriciously denying humans and other animals reasonable activities and choices only breeds frustration, discouragement, resentment, and depression.  Real RESPECT AND CONSIDERATION are mandatory!!  Nasty, sarcastic, harsh tones of voice and angry facial expressions are unacceptable. Both very negatively affect bonding.  Necessary discipline can be firm without being nasty.  
One area that is, I think, not given much attention to is the area of living and teaching cooperation.  In any good relationship that lasts at all, cooperation is predominant.  People need to cooperate to do most everything together.  Settling disputes and disagreements wisely and satisfactorily takes a lot of skill actually; it takes people who really know how to cooperate, and want to.  It is possible for parents to set up all sorts of tasks and games to do in which the players have to cooperate.  Wonderful!  Cooperating – working together – can be tremendously fun and very satisfying, can build interpersonal bonding, can promote happiness and well being, and can equip people to get along well in this world. 
Well, folks, could you take some time and focus to see if there are “glitches” in your routine functioning?  I know I continue to work for improvement in my functioning. What I am trying to do is to show genuine respect and friendliness not only to family, but to anyone I happen to see out in my world. I am trying to be very considerate and thoughtful in speech and actions, and to respond with empathy and compassion.  I try to make sure I come through with what I said I would do.  I have my own checklist.  I don’t know what my personal scoreboard would write about me right now, but I am going to keep on trying, to keep doing better and better. 
I am very aware that whatever we do, or do not do that we should do, and how we do what we do are of lasting importance, no matter how trivial they might seem.  All things and beings are connected, and what we do has far reaching, and often unintended consequences.  For example, any teenager, involved in starting to smoke, sure doesn’t have any idea, at that time, that 50 years down the line he is going to die of lung cancer, causing his loved ones deep grief, and running up huge medical bills.  Which parents realize that, because quality family life and real consideration of children’s needs are on “the back burner,” their kids are going to end up in jail for repeated offenses, or hurting other people and animals terribly, or even dying themselves?    
It’s no joke.  We need to be really careful.  Whatever we are doing has consequences, be they good or bad!!  And, we can have some, or even a lot of control over what happens.  We can make a difference!
Copyright 2013 The Caring Heart

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