Family goals are difficult to define, since these days there is no such thing as a normal family – they are all different and as a unit, all have strengths and weaknesses. From single parent families, to step families and even some traditional families – they all have a unique set of dynamics that comes into play when setting family goals.
Like all goal setting, you need to take a look at your current situation regarding your family to allow you to identify what you want to achieve and then how to set goals to achieve it.
So start with your family tree! For you and your partner, draw tree branches to your immediate family – mother, father and siblings – extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces) and your own children of course.
Include stepfamilies too as these are becoming more and more common, and have their own set of problems and opportunities.
Just stick with the family members who are still ‘with you’ and not the ones who have passed on, as you’re using this family tree as a starting point for goals for your existing family.
You can do a
historical family tree
too – these can be quite interesting as you’ll never know who you’ll dig up [sorry about the really bad pun].
Now looking at your family tree, start jotting down what you think is going well with your family relationships, and what you think needs a little (or a lot) of work. Perhaps you don’t visit your parents much because they live in another country or state, perhaps you have step relationships that are strained.
The key is to identify what you want to work on so that you can start setting some family goals.
Armed with this information, you can go about setting your family goals.
You can also use the mind mapping technique to do the same job [click on the “Life Skills” tab on the NavBar and look under the section on “Decision Making” to find out how to do a mind map].
What makes a happy family
Regardless of the makeup of your family, all families generally want the same thing – to be happy. And this is the number one family goals set by millions of people world wide. But how do you achieve it?
Research by the Family Strengths Research Project in Australia has identified the following universal characteristics of a happy family:
Communication - Families benefit from open two-way communication that is loving, understanding and patient.
Sharing activities - Happy families share activities together.
Togetherness - Children need to be involved in some of the decision making if they are to feel like a worthwhile family member. Happy families share a feeling of togetherness.
Support - Happy families support and encourage each other.
Affection - Happy families show their affection for each other.
Acceptance - Families are made up of different individuals with different needs and, sometimes, different values and beliefs. Happy families are able to show acceptance of these individual differences.
Commitment - Happy families have a genuine commitment to each other.
Resilience - Happy families show their resilience.
And conversely, Unhappy families that don’t function as well as they could have certain traits in common.
Do you have a happy or unhappy family? Based on the Australian Family Strengths Research Project, there is a Happy Family Checklist in the ToolBOX, under the section on Family Goals.
This checklist based on the above 8 principles, is a great starting point for setting your family goals, by identifying areas where you can work on with your family.
As with all goals, don’t take on too much at once – start by making simple changes and the benefits will begin to snowball. For example, as you and your family communicate better, you’ll being to share activities and be together, and so on.
Try having dinnertime together every night as a family, rather than eating in front of TV. If your kids play a sport or learn ballet, take the time as a family to watch them play a game or go to the annual ballet concert. Attend school sports days when you can.
And make sure you schedule dedicated quality time with your partner and children – every week.
There are lots of ways you can spend quality time with your family to foster the above 8 principles of a happy family – so make the time and set some family goals. You’ll never regret it.
Of course when you’re dealing with a complex mix of personalities, growth spurts and life dynamics – this isn’t always easy. So keep reading for some advice on how to get through some of the tricky family problems.
Not enough time to achieve your family goals? These FREE time management e-books from Rigdha Acharya may help:
Dealing with conflict
Family conflict can happen when family members have different views or beliefs that clash, or when your family goes through a significant change like separation or new children.
It is normal to disagree with other family members from time to time and occasional conflict is part of family life. But ongoing conflict can be stressful and damaging to the family unit and can lead to arguments and resentment.
And different people handle conflict differently too, just due to their personality. Some people have a bad temper, others bottle-up their feelings and some may even become violent.
Peaceful resolution depends on negotiation and respect for the other person’s point of view, but sometimes Professional help may be required.
If you find your family in conflict, here are some tips for reaching that peaceful resolution:
- Don’t let conflict become violent or abusive – walk away if this is starting to happen, or try to separate flighting family members if the conflict doesn’t initially involve you.
- Wait until the people involved have calmed down and hold a ‘family meeting’ involving the feuding family members. It is sometimes useful to have another family member act as arbitrator – an unbiased and impartial observer who keeps discussions civil!
- Let both people put their side of events across without interruption – get them to explain their feelings. And listen with respect – actively listen to what they are saying and what they really mean.
- Stick to the topic, don’t bring up old war wounds and target the problem, rather than the person.
- Try to find some common ground and come up with as many possible solutions to the conflict as possible. Both parties should be willing to compromise, but you may end up agreeing to disagree. And that’s OK, because you’re trying to resolve the conflict, not win the argument. We are all allowed to have a different opinion!
And when you’ve resolved a conflict – that’s it! Stick to the solution and don’t bring it up as ammunition in future arguments.
The Anger Toolbox (2006)
This educational DVD will provide comprehensive theory, discussions and exercises. Learn about the physiological roots of Anger, how to separate Anger from Violence, speak your truth and build better relationships. You will also learn healthy and responsible ways to express your Anger, from small irritants to intense emotions and prevent conflict from escalating to Violence.
Anger is a natural feeling that occurs in response to fear, frustration, helplessness and loss. We all experience these feelings and this program focuses on how to express yourself responsibly.
Growing up and growing old
As parents we seem to be facing the on-going challenge of managing our children’s particular growth phase – whether it’s tantrum throwing toddlers, independent teenagers or mixed up tweens.
I’m not even going to attempt to cover all the issues you’re going to face as a parent – there are heaps of other websites that can help you here – but needless to say, if you follow the 8 principles of a happy family discussed previously, you’re well on the way!
Effective and attentive communication with your children and taking an active interest in their life is the best remedy for all kinds of parenting problems. But always know when it’s time to get professional help, and don’t be afraid to do so.
Just as our children grow up, you and your partner will also change as you get older. Your interests may change, your attitude may change – and hopefully your partner’s ‘changes’ will be in the same direction.
Again the important thing here is to just keep on communicating - share your deepest thoughts and emotions with your partner as this can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship. Talk about your joys and achievements, as well as any doubts and frustrations. Let your partner know how you feel.
And explore different ways to share intimacy - be clear about how you want your relationship to be. Talk about family traditions and values that are important to you.
And most importantly spend time alone together as a couple, regularly and without your child. This will give you a chance to get close and recharge your batteries.
Family goals need to include the relationship with your partner too.
Sometimes of course, partners grow apart and you need to know when it’s time to go your separate ways. This can be a very hard decision, particularly when there are children involved.
Children almost always prefer the status quo – even if the family unit is 'unhappy’. So depending on the age of your children and their nature, any parent separation will require a lot of discussion time with the kids. This is one aspect of family life where professional help such as counselling is a must.
And then further down the track when stepfamilies come into the picture, another bunch of hurdles and challenges – and opportunities - is introduced.
Again, the key to happy families is the 8 principles outlines above – whether it’s a traditional family or a step family. And this is a great time to set new family goals.
What are YOUR family goals going to be?
And make sure you monitor your family goals too – your family dynamics will change as your children grow up and as you and your partner grow older. Stay in touch with the ‘feel’ of your family and put your family first.
Read this article on how to attract love with affirmations for more information…
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