All grown up: Building Stronger Family Relationships as an Adult.

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Our family relationships are one of the most long standing and significant in our entire life. They’ve helped to shape us into the person we are today, instilling our early values, belief systems and sense of self.

By adulthood we’ve learned that life can be a far cry from The Cosby's, and even the healthiest of connections can’t escape times of strain. Whether you’re dealing with family feuds or simply striving towards strengthening existing ties, there’s always ways to make positive changes.

Put down the past to break old patterns.

Old habits die hard, and the way you interact with your family was often formed many years ago, that it’s now deeply ingrained. Stuck in a cycle, we just carry on re-enacting the same behavior. That means it requires your conscious attention to identify where you want to see changes, and then take note of the outdated habits that may be standing in your way.

It’s much harder to move towards a healthier relationship if you’re being weighed down, carrying around the past. Regardless of what’s gone before, you’re now an adult and that means taking responsibility for yourself in the here and now, rather than still seeing your relationship with your parents or siblings through the eyes of a child. 

Forget about fair.

Getting where you want to be will take a lot longer (or may never happen at all) if you’re too focused on meeting a loved one in the middle, or keeping score over equal efforts: i.e. “I’ve visited them twice now, and they still haven’t come to me once.” Put ego aside and give what you are capable of giving to improve a situation, no more and no less.

Some of us are blessed with a wider range of life tools at our disposal. Perhaps the reason your dad never gives hugs is because physical affection is much harder for him to show. If it’s even just a tiny bit easier for you, and you are capable of doing so, then take those steps to break a cycle.  

Take action and lead by example.

Intentions and talk are a wonderful start, but nothing will change without action. Identify simple and practical things you can do, make a commitment, and then follow through. Wish you and your sister spoke more often? Then make the decision to call her once a week to catch up.

We usually find ourselves feeling frustrated when we want, or even expect, others to change in line with us. Instead, it’s far better to inspire others through your own action, rather than put pressure on them to behave the way you wish they would. 

Create a family life that works for you and don’t compare.

Your family dynamics are completely unique. As they’re specific to you, they cannot be compared with how any other families operate. Your best friend may speak to her mom every day, and while that’s nice for her, it certainly doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your relationship if you only talk once a week.

Ultimately family bonds are incredibly resilient, but it’s taken years for the existing relationship you have to form, so be patient when trying to create changes. It may take some time before you see significant shifts, but slowly and steadily patterns of old behavior can be replaced with new ones.