No, I’m not just talking about relationships with your partner. I’m talking about relationships with your family.
First let’s define family. Family, as defined by Palo Alto Medical Foundation, is a domestic group of people with some degree of kinship – whether through blood, marriage, or adoption.
Growing up, I had a very close relationship with my family. Speed dials 1, 2, and 3 were my family members, we shared passwords to Facebook accounts, and we had sleepovers in the living room during school breaks. Together, we shared my thoughts and worries. I guess you could say my family members were like my best friends. It is nice to know that my family can trust one another and share these sorts of thoughts comfortably, without fear. However, like most families we aren’t perfect. We argue about the smallest things. Everyone’s family is different and unique, and has their own way of cooperating and communicating with each another.
Generally, starting college means moving out of the home you share with family, and your relationship with your family changes. As college students, we can become caught up in our own lives; we often don’t have the same amount or quality of contact with the people who were there in the beginning. Some people may grow distant from their family because they have less in common or you have a hard time communicating constructively. Or, relationships with family members may strengthen because everyone has their own space and can keep in touch more intentionally rather than by proximity. Whatever the case may be, I hope you consider some of these tips for a healthy relationship with your family. With summer coming up and many students returning to live with family, now is a great time to focus a bit on the important relationships in your life outside of school.
- Speak Up. In a healthy family relationship, if something is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it instead of holding it in. Verbal communication is one way love and other emotions are expressed. When you use “I” statements, you can express your own feelings, desires, thoughts, and attitudes.
- Listen. There are ways to communicate that we are listening to the other person. Using very brief statements or nodding our heads can effectively signal that we are actively listening. Another key aspect of effectively listening is to not interrupt when listening to others. Also, keep an open mind and be non-judgmental.
- Reach out. Give family members a call (or Skype) once in awhile, or schedule a visit for a family activity. Some good conversation starters are how successful you feel after finishing a paper or tell them Marcus Paige confirmed to stay at UNC for the next year (Woohoo Tar Heels!). If you can’t call or are not geographically close enough for an activity, send them a sweet text and a picture of you walking to class.
- Balance. Balance is important to your mental health and to your relationships. Even if you’re busy during the year (or like now, with finals!), don’t shut out your family because of school work. It only take a seconds to let them know you’re busy and will be in contact soon.
If you’re interested in learning more about healthy family relationships or strengthening family relationships, check out Advocates for Youth for more information on what makes a family strong and successful. You can also talk with CAPS on campus about issues you may be having with family or home life.