Help your family stay healthy

More and more, in developed countries, we see families as collections of individuals, rather than whole units. With over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, parents who were neglected by their parents and cannot put the interests of their closest relatives and loved ones before their own, it’s hardly surprising that there are so many dysfunctional families out there.

Parents cheat on each other and subconsciously encourage their children to be deceptive. They employ double standards. They don’t know how to control their emotions and resolve conflicts with intimidation and threats. Quite often they intoxicate themselves in order to take the edge of the misery of their lives – mom takes her valium twice a day, daddy hits the bottle and the end of the day, eldest child is hooked on heroin and the youngest is smoking dope. And that’s if the family is still together.

Your family might not be in such a state, but who knows how things might turn out if you don’t start to do things together, communicate properly and share common interests? If you allow each other to drift apart, it will be very difficult to bring everyone back together again.

Many strong families use the family meal as a chance to catch up with each other, find out what’s on each other’s minds, resolve any disputes and so on. Rather than slinking off to watch different TVs, with their plates on their knees, family members realize that this is something they participate in that is good for the family as a whole, and therefore is good for them as individuals.

Even if your family cannot get together for a meal every day, perhaps due to differing work schedules, you should at least try to do it once a week. Make sure everyone contributes in whatever way they can. Younger members can set the table, the older kids can help prepare the food and wash up afterwards. Everyone should have their place at the table and observe the rules of the table. Don’t just serve up something that came straight out of the freezer – take the time to make something delicious which everyone can savor. Use the time to enjoy the food and ask each other how they are and what news they have. Even if everyone’s fine and nothing particularly interesting has happened, you’re letting each other know that you care.

This sense of coming together can be reinforced by the distribution of responsibilities around the house. Make sure that everyone contributes in some way – even the youngest children should have some responsibility – helping to put clothes away or tidying up, for example. If someone shirks their responsibilities, it should be brought up at the family meal for discussion as to how to deal with it.

If the family can share common goals, it will help bring them together. For example, trying to become more self-sufficient as a family allows everyone to participate in, enjoy, and celebrate the growing of vegetables, fruit and the rearing of hens and other animals.

If you want to stay physically healthy as a family, you can participate in sports together. Get a family pass for a tennis club and go there every weekend. Play soccer with each other in the yard. Buy some home gym equipment. Get the family together and choose what you want to buy. Or simply go for this one and leave it in a readily accessible area.

If some family members resist participating fully, or constantly put their own selfish interests ahead of everyone else’s, don’t bother nagging at them or lecturing them. That’s likely to put them off even more, and could even be the reason they don’t want to participate. For example, if one family member constantly won’t come to the dinner table on time, let them go without dinner. If they show up late, let them see the consequences of their behavior. But always ask yourself, first, if there is something the rest of you can do differently to encourage them to participate. It may turn out that they reason they don’t want to come to dinner on time is that they hate the food that is served. Communication facilitates communication.