Life is hard today. We are asking young people to make bigger choices even younger, we are spending more time in school and homework, taking higher-level classes, and facing more pressure and competition to get into good colleges, only to end up with higher debt levels at the end. Technology helps so much, but it also adds more stress to social media. It is very easy for us to pull away from our families and focus on ourselves. Add complications with mental health or substance use, and it is even easier to develop an “I” or “me” mentality. While it seems that we are better off focusing on our own lives, it is actually more helpful to us to build stronger relationships with our family. Think of it as putting the “I” in the family.
It is not strange that we should start pulling away from our families as we get older and more independent. We are becoming our own people, and let’s face it, families can be kind of weird/annoying/overbearing/(fill in your own adjective here) sometimes. When we experience a lot of stress, it is easy to turn our focus to ourselves. But actually, if we reach out and maintain those relationships with family, simply interacting with them will help us to stay sane. We never know, they may even surprise us and support us, too.
Interacting with families can be really difficult because of generational differences or even differences in age between siblings. Maybe mom’s idea of interacting is to dress in matching clothes and go shopping together. No thanks, mom. Or your annoying little sister wants you to read the same Frozen book over and over to her. Please get me out of this family.
We don’t need to sacrifice our dignity to enjoy and maintain relationships within our families. Part of improving relationships is communication, after all. We can offer to be a part of the family but to have some say in how we participate. We don’t need to schedule hours of time to spend together, because that will add to our stress when we have less time to study or do the things that are already stressing us out. We can do little things to show our commitment to these relationships.
Some ideas to put the “I” back into family:
Family Mail Service – Find a spot with boxes or a bulletin board or something where family members can post notes to each other. Everyone loves to get mail, and it is a fun way to communicate things that may be awkward to say face to face, such as “I liked the way you let me have my space yesterday, I really needed it.” Or even a simple love note, a compliment, or reminder. This can be a chance to put art skills to work and make it really awesome, or just something really simple. Don’t forget to put paper and pens nearby.
Cook Dinner Once a Week – An hour a week. We can increase our cooking skills and give our family one hour a week to show we are committed to being a part of their weirdness. Plus, if we are cooking, we can choose what we are eating. That’s one night less of mom’s asparagus casserole or whatever. And if cooking is not in our skillset or even our desired skillset, then suggest a set night once a week to go out together or get takeout, and be the one to ensure each family member takes a turn choosing the restaurant.
Family Game Night – A cliché idea, and yet an easy way to interact without much thought or preparation. Pick a night, take turns choosing the board or card game, and then play. You can also choose snacks or a treat at the end, too.
Make a Movie – Maybe hanging out is just too much, so make a movie or a slideshow or some other project that has meaning to the whole family and can be shared. Investing time and talents is a way of showing our family we care.
Game Training Academy – Sit the family down and teach them a video game. (Please be patient with the old people.) This builds patience and also bridges the gaps between generations to create new understanding. It is also awesome to watch mom try to figure out the controller.
Taking the time for our families helps us in so many ways. It gives us a break from worrying about ourselves and our stress load, and who doesn’t need more of that? We can also improve communication, often unintentionally, which is the best way. The more our families understand what we are going through, the more empathy they can give us, and vice versa. When we share our skills and talents with them, we also show that we are willing to invest in them, which may change how they view us. There is also that f-word that we don’t typically use around our families: fun. Who knew that families could be fun?
Life can be very stressful. More so when we experience mental health and substance issues. We don’t need to do it all on our own, though. By opting into our families, we gain empathy, love, and support that we may not have known was possible. Don’t just be a “me” or an “I.” Put the “I” back in family.
You can have some control over how you interact with your family. Learn how to put yourself back into your family by calling Embark Behavioral Health 1-855-809-0409 today.