There have been many dire predictions about the future of the Canadian family using the high divorce rate as a statistic.
When the effects of the economy are hitting four out of five families, one would think that the family would be on the list of the endangered species of our time.
But that is not the case, the modern Canadian family may not fit the traditional description but it is still an effective team.
Families have roots and give roots to the generations which follow. One need only to listen to the repeated accounts of the Depression years to know that families survive despite economic hardship and often are stronger for it.
Troubles do seem to bond people together. The rush to get ahead sometimes sacrifices personal and family time and we are often struggling to find some balance. The source of that balance may be the time we spend at home together.
For young people, this builds a firm foundation of healthy behaviors.
We can create good self-esteem which allows our children to accept their shortcomings and deal with occasional failures. When there is unconditional love, there is acceptance of the individual members for who they are.
That does not mean that there are no disagreements or differences of opinion. Families are the first line of lessons in problem solving, negotiating and compromising.
However, since they share common values and rules, members can focus on understanding and helping each other.
The Canadian family IS under stress, no question about it, but much of that stress is generated outside of the home. As adults, we are the role models for the younger members of the family and we must guard against teaching them by example that it is acceptable to take their tension out on other people. One key to dealing with this is probably humor. It lets our children know that we can laugh at ourselves and the chemical release of endorphins in the brain contributes to our sense of wellness and can actually boost the immune system to help us fight illness.
A family I know well holds regular meetings called by whichever family member voices the need.
They discuss rules, expectations, individual accomplishments, vacation plans, or discipline issues. Each feels that they have a voice and is respected as part of the circle but the final decision rests with the parent.
Kids need to know what is going to happen but they also need to know that someone is in charge. One of the most important elements in any association is that even if the decision making is shared, someone is at the head of this connected and bonded group.
This process of negotiation and discussion fosters good social skills in our young people which builds success, security and adjustment for their futures.
The Canadian family is alive and well in all of its changing and varied forms. We can also look to other families for examples of positive skills which we could add to our repertoires to help all of us be better family members. Celebrate the differences, learn from them – that’s what makes us who we are.