Go on and join that gym, get that facial and make over your wardrobe with all of those gift cards you scored over the holidays. While you're at it, make over your family, too. Don't go getting all "Jillian" on them and make them cry on a treadmill. No, I'm just suggesting that you take stock of your family's life. What's working? What isn't?
A family makeover need not be inspired by some deep, dark "pathology," by the way. In fact, all families, just like cars, can benefit from routine maintenance or "tune-ups" from time to time. And you don't even have to visit a therapist. Instead, simply take "inventory" at your next family meeting (check out my tips for holding a family meeting at ChicagoParent.com).
Things to consider:
What are your goals for your family? What are everyone else's?
What does your family do well that makes reaching these goals possible? What's working that you'd each like to see continue? What traditions are you proud of?
On the other hand, what isn't working so well? What gets in the way? Steering your language away from words like "bad" and "fault"-avoid assigning any blame-can help to keep the conversation light and the discussion rolling. As I see it, any two (or more) people can peacefully coexist, but that only works when individual egos take a back seat to the needs of the group. In this case, the group is your family.
Needing to be "right" and always casting someone else as the bad guy or the "problem" may feel satisfying in the short-term, but will need to be sacrificed if your goal truly is family harmony.
As a team, figure out what's working and keep doing it. Then decide what isn't and replace it. This process is about hearing what each person sees as the goal for the family-and for themselves-and deciding if those agendas match up or can be amended enough to be productive. If not, will they chronically collide in ways that are destructive to one or more of you? If you discover relational land mines that, in spite of your best efforts, keep being "tripped," you may want to enlist the support of a good therapist.
If everyone shares at least the same basic premise that the goal is for everyone to feel safe and nurtured, regular tune-ups can keep your family humming nicely. Facing the limits and the possibilities of your family will make it stronger, and enable each of you-and your family, to thrive.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.