Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Are you wondering if your family dynamics at Thanksgiving dinner are going to scare off your daughter's new boyfriend? Do you want to take the family conversation up a notch or two this year and talk more than turkey? Are you tired of stuffing the bird and ready to pass the baton to the younger generation? Use some of the following tips, those that apply specifically to your family situation, to create new holiday rituals:

Make a conscious decision to put aside misunderstandings and differences so you can enjoy the family time together. Arrive at dinner with an open mind, no complaints and an accepting heart.

Before the meal, begin a conversation about gratitude. Have your children and your parents talk about what they are thankful for and how feeling grateful can become a part of their daily lives.

During dinner, deepen the discussion by encouraging each family member to identify his or her core values. A core value is about being, not about doing. For example, you may set a goal of being a more secure and satisfied person rather than one of having a lot of money. Decide to live up to these standards by taking action as you create a more congruent way of life.

Pause to recognize the talents, skills and positive character traits of others, as well as your own. Serve as a role model for your extended family as you openly acknowledge these personal strengths.

If you're ready to be a guest instead of the host, make this Thanksgiving holiday a rite of passage. Whether you're edging your kidults out of the nest or taking a well deserved respite for yourself, begin to shift the responsibility of family get-togethers to the next generation.

Pass on the family legacy. Let your adult children know how much you value keeping the family close. Teach by example as they watch how you lovingly take care of your own aging parents.

Encourage the younger members of the family to preserve the old traditions and give them your support while they're creating customs of their own. Remember to express your appreciation as they develop new family and holiday attitudes.

Whether your emerging adult children decide to create new wave recipes or cook the turkey in the microwave, it's now out of your control. Sit back and relax - all you have to do is pass the gravy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of you may be planning to get together as a family for the holiday. For some, family gatherings are a source of warmth and joy, for others, tension and disappointment. How can you prepare for a Thanksgiving that will nurture yourself as well as your family?

Holidays and family dynamics have long been a meaty subject for the entertainment industry. The motion picture "Avalon" addressed the long-term damage that can result when resentments festering below the surface spill out onto the Thanksgiving table. The uncle was hurt and insulted that "you cut the turkey?!" without him and his wife sharing the moment with the others. His anger clouded the family relationships for many years after. How can you control your words and actions so that they don't have negative effects long after Thanksgiving is over?

Can you concentrate on the positive ways that your family touches and supports each other? April, a young adult in the film "Pieces of April," is explaining the origins of Thanksgiving to an immigrant family. "Once there was this one day where everybody seemed to know they needed each other. This one day when they knew for certain that they couldn't do it alone." Although April's family had many dysfunctional elements, they came together on Thanksgiving to support and care for each other. How does each member of your family relate to and sustain one another?

Instead of focusing on the difficulties and negatives, reflect on the blessings of your family. The adult daughter in "Home for the Holidays" said, when she was describing her feelings: "We don't have to like each other. We're family." Enjoy your family and a Thanksgiving full of emotional as well as physical nourishment!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Veteran's Day gives us all an opportunity to pay tribute to people who, over the years, have endured hardship and made sacrifices to protect our freedoms. Some people attend services or parades, others remember more quietly. How are you most comfortable expressing your feelings of patriotism?

This process of appreciation has many parallels to our own relationships at home. As you remember the veterans of all wars, reflect on the following ideals as they apply to your own family:

Identify, for yourself, the significant components of what gives life meaning and what constitutes personal well being, within the context of family.

Value each family member's individuality, uniqueness and independence. Let them know how much you respect these qualities.

Acknowledge the depth and richness of your family life and relish the complexity of it all.

Feel the embrace and the protection of the family unit as a whole. Express your gratitude for all the support that it provides for you.

How can you create positive thoughts about your family relationships on a daily basis? Find the special ways to honor them as you work to increase the bonds of family unity.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Senator John Kerry said his remark, "If you don't study hard you get stuck in Iraq," was a joke gone awry. President George W. Bush was critical, commenting to the Associated Press that "it didn't sound like a joke to me. More important, it didn't sound like a joke to the troops." What did you think?

With the election right around the corner, the political stakes are high. Some bloggers and journalists in the Conservative camp are focused on Senator John Kerry's "campaign gaffe." Others on the Democratic team view this fixation as a GOP talking point - a smoke screen for President Bush's "inappropriately conducted war."

Our concern is more personal – what lessons can you, the Sandwich Generation, learn about your own communication with your emerging adult children and aging parents?

We all know that words can hurt. An offhand remark or slip of the tongue can be emotionally damaging. If the World War II motto, "loose lips sink ships," is leaving you with what has been termed the "foot-in-mouth syndrome," add the following tips to your communication toolbox:

1. When addressing a sensitive issue, state a specific goal you want to accomplish. Be direct and clear in what you say. Don’t accuse or blame your listener's character or ideas.

2. As body language and tone of voice count, assume a non-threatening stance and monitor your negative emotions. Be slow to complain or criticize. Take some responsibility by using "I-focused" statements to clarify that this is your personal opinion.

3. Listen closely without planning your response. Be empathic to the speaker's position and ask questions for clearer understanding. Try to put yourself in the other's shoes and look at the issue from that vantage point.

4. In a conflict, count to 10 before responding. Or, instead of escalating, walk away. Take time to calm down and agree to return to the discussion later and work out a solution.

5. Sometimes you do know what's best. Take a stand and hold your ground when the safety or well being of your children or parents is at stake. Be patient as they grow to appreciate your position, even if it’s unpopular at the time.

If political history is prologue, it seems like it is human nature to defend yourself initially. Instead of fighting back, take some time to reflect. Discuss your feelings with your family in flux about an issue that requires an apology. Use this as an opportunity - turn negative feelings into more positive ones, teach a life lesson, form a deeper connection.