Rob spent the last 90 days in rehab; now he’s home and trying to figure out how to peacefully live with his wife and kids. How does he bring a sense of normalcy to the household? What patterns should he establish? Is it even possible to make his family function the way it used to?
As luck would have it, research indicates there are a few things we can do to encourage healthy family dynamics. Don't misunderstand; taking these steps won't magically transform an unbalanced family into a completely “normal” and supportive unit, but they will improve the overall health and well-being of your family members - especially teens.
It Really is About the Simple Things
Does your family attend annual events or have some ritual get-togethers that bring everyone together in the name of spending time with one another? Our lives are ridiculously fast-paced and hectic. Society is overwhelmed with technology that isolates and distracts - when is the last time you saw your teenager without a smartphone glued to her ear?
While the above alienating characteristics take a toll on family life, rituals can help to ground us. Establishing healthy customs can reduce stress and provide quality time together. Perhaps you never eat dinner together - only 17 percent of families do. Making this a new ritual can be incredibly beneficial. Research shows that children who eat dinner with their families have better manners, healthier diets and higher self-esteem and are less likely to do drugs, drink alcohol or commit suicide.
Dinner doesn’t work well for your family? No problem! The idea is to establish a few minutes each day for family time. If dinner isn’t feasible, establish snack time or a once-per-week special meal out. Create a family game night each week. Ask everyone to share their high and low points of the week on Saturday mornings. It doesn’t have to look a certain way. It simply needs to provide time to interact, share what’s going on and create a sense of attachment to each other.
Use “I” Language
Encourage family members to share their feelings. Teach your teen that it’s okay to say “I feel like...” or “I don’t like it when...” Allowing them to express themselves in an open and honest way will greatly increase a healthy level of family functioning .
It’s important to create an environment where it’s okay to feel these emotions...and each family member feels safe when talking about them. This requires leading by example and a lot of listening. When it's all said and done, human beings want just to be heard - no matter what our age.
Even if expressing her feelings doesn’t change the situation or reduce consequences, it makes your teen feel validated, connected and healthier when her emotions are acknowledged. Families who use “I” demonstrate and encourage healthy relationships. While those who focus on “you” or don’t share their true feelings are more likely to fight and experience dysfunction as they try to cope silently with addiction recovery.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Don’t try to hide the truth from your family. Teens ignorant of the truth may seem blissful, but lies have a way of catching up causing more damage. Open, honest communication is the key to healing and growth within the family.
Knowing the truth about family history also provides children awareness of potential dangers. If your family has a history of addiction, they need to know about it...for their own protection. Admitting that you needed help lets your family know that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Sharing with them what you’ve learned offers a great teaching opportunity
Make the Difference
Incorporating these habits into your daily routine as a family will strengthen your recovery. These tips may seem simple, but they can make a huge impact as you re-join your family.
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