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10 Ways to Refresh Family Relationships

© Beverley Paine

All too often we take the relationships in our families for granted. Traditionally mothers have generally been the relationship managers within the family who made sure that everyone is getting on nicely with each other. I always resented the fact that without any training for this role I found myself thrashing about in the deep end: one of three similarly aged siblings all of whom went to school I found my own childhood completely lacking in modelling for this phase of my life. I could calculus and understood how electricity works and knew the inner workings of a black hole, but had no idea of how to cope as a parent and wife. Now I'm old and my children are grown up - now I've "been there and done that" - I feel much better equipped!

One thing I've discovered as a parent, if you don't pay deliberate attention to the relationship side of families, then you're going to have a mediocre family life. If you make it a priority and give it regular, positive attention, it will thrive. Homeschooling made it a lot easier to pay attention as we had ample time in each day to pause and really listen to each other, rather than hurried snatches of conversations squeezed in between 'must do' activities. We didn't suffer from the stress derived from the building tension at the end of the day, when everyone is trying to share their experiences all at once. It's hard to be attentive on what the kids are saying while driving home from school, juggling instant snacks while preparing nutritious meals in the kitchen, or frantically looking for lost socks or homework first thing in the morning. Homeschooling allows for a much saner approach to life simply by giving us time to pace activities throughout the day.

If you're feeling a little frazzled and less than happy about the state of relationships in your homeschooled family then maybe it's time to do a "spring clean". To bring a fresh new energy to your family life try doing all or some of the following:

1.  Make a commitment to go on an excursion as a family once a week. Go to the cinema, or on a picnic. Go for a family walk around the block or in the nearest conservation park. Head down the beach, no matter the weather, for an invigorating ball game or to fly a kite. Spending time - without company - on a regular basis will rejuvenate your relationships.

2.   If you feel unappreciated try this: compliment your children and spouse. Say to them all the wonderful things you wish they would say to you , things that would give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Within no time the compliments will start bouncing back!

3.  Imagine the perfect family. Write down, doodle and draw, or cut and paste images from magazines what you think creates happy family relationships. Make a list of values and factors and create positive, simple and achievable action plans you can to do to bring these to life in your family.

4.   When you are all calm and relatively happy with each other, take the time to sit together and talk about the behaviours and actions that upset or hurt each of you. This is an opportunity to air our wounds and have them acknowledged. It's not the time to reply, or blame or justify. Be firm about keeping comments positive and constructive and encourage everyone to use "I" instead of "you" statements.

5.  From now on everyone in the family has to stop talking about what's not working or what they don't want. It's time to start talking about what is working and what you all want more of! This simple change from negative to positive language is often enough to create the changes you're seeking.

6.  Strive to reword what you're about to say so that is has a positive ring. If you've already said the sentence, correct yourself. It's never too late to sound positive! It's easy if you begin with the mindless, but important, everyday things we say to our children, such as "Stop running in the supermarket!" I learned to say instead, "You can run in the playground later, please walk in here". Every positively reworded sentence builds better relationships!

7.  Most of us find that conflict usually happens at the same time or in the same place or over the same things. The way to fix this is to change the patterns: first by noticing them and then by stopping them. If necessary change your routine. Do things in a different way or at a different time. Don't attempt to do important tasks when you're stressed or already busy, feeling unwell or tired. Pause, have a cuppa, sit and relax and chat with the children or spouse for a while instead. Taking a five or ten minute break may put the whole activity into a more positive, constructive light.

8. Make sure you build time into your day or week for you all to have time alone - learning to be by ourselves is an important aspect of socialisation. And make sure that dad gets time to be with each child, and for you to spend time with each child, and for mum and dad to have time alone together. You may need to set up an intentional schedule and stick to it religiously for a few weeks or months if this is an area you've neglected or haven't considered that important in the past.

9. Stop taking life so seriously... Accept that, no matter what, as a parent you're doing the best you can in each and every moment given your present situation and circumstance. When you reflect on the day remind yourself of the many small successes you experienced as well as all the things you could have done better. It's always easy to be super critical in hindsight. Pat yourself on the back: you deserve it! Tomorrow will present many opportunities to create, mend and build on what you began today...

10. Play together. Turn off the television and play games in the evening, share a book together, or play hide and seek in the dark! Get down on the carpet and play like a child every now and then. You'll be amazed at how much fun it is!

Beverley Paine is a mother of three young adults and a prolific writer of homeschooling articles. More articles and essays can be found in her books, available from the Always Learning Books online bookstore.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.

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