What makes a great family?

Grandparents or foster parents, tiny one-parent families or huge extended families — it doesn’t matter what your family looks like. What counts is the culture you create, writes KELLY EDEN.

The way you respect, love, and care for each other can be displayed in many ways, such as showing kindness or encouraging each other’s strengths. Here are three ideas for creating a positive family culture.

1. Responding to bids
Frequently responding to each other’s emotional bids is vital for building a strong family.

Emotional bids are little moments where we try to connect with each other. They are the moments when you point to something funny, or your child says, “Look at this!”; when you lean in for a cuddle or smile at your loved one.

Those moments of connection are essential for healthy relationships. When we respond to them — smile back, accept the hug, laugh at the joke they shared — we’re saying, “You’re important to me. I like being with you. I care about what you care about.”

2. Celebrating well
How we celebrate has been shown in psychology studies to make a significant impact on relationships.

Imagine your teenage child arrives home from school and tells you he or she did well on their assignment. You can choose to respond to this good news in four ways:

  •  “Well done, that’s great!” This response is fine, but it has no impact on your relationship. It doesn’t make it any better or worse.
  •  “Oh, that’s nice, can you bring in the washing please?” Family life is busy and sometimes that means we’re distracted. Unfortunately, if we give too many distracted responses like this, our relationships start to suffer.
  •  “That’s a surprise! I didn’t think you’d worked hard enough to get a good mark.” Obviously, this type of response is going to impact negatively on your relationship. Criticism is always unhelpful in communication.
  •  “Wow! I knew you could do it. Let’s celebrate. Did they write any comments?” Getting your loved one to give you details about their success helps them enjoy it more. Celebrating with a nice dinner or by doing something together reinforces that you value them. It has a massive impact on your relationship.

Great families celebrate each other and lift each other up.

3. Touch
The importance of touch is often underestimated. Children especially need healthy touch to develop well. Touch helps us develop a strong sense of love, attachment and connection.

It’s easy to become very independent in our society, doing our own thing off in different spaces. Even ten minutes a day of focused time and loving touch can make a big difference to family life. Family members will be calmer and feel more secure, bonded, and connected to each other when there are moments of physical touch.

Great families create a culture where everyone feels loved, heard, and valued. Whatever your family looks like, how you treat each other is what matters the most.

Grandparents raising grandchildren

Are you a grandparent raising your grandchild full-time or a whānau caregiver raising someone else’s child? You are not alone. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust New Zealand supports over 5,200 families nationwide. Membership is free, and you can access a wide range of services. These services include our free helpline, access to direct support, information, advice, and advocacy help from our team of experienced advocates, and our bi-monthly newsletter. We also provide trauma-informed care workshops, uniquely designed for the grandparent or whanau-caregiver.

0800 GRANDS (0800 472 637) / grg.org.nz