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How To Strengthen Family Life

Feb 25, 2008
There are three aspects to family life which can be used to strengthen it: family meals, family projects and family rituals.

Young people can find a lot of material on how to get married but very little on how to stay married. In these words a shrewd student once characterized the current literature on the family. There is much truth in this observation. Nowhere do our efforts to promote successful family life fail more conspicuously than in the lack of emphasis upon the family as a project in group living, and the effort to find and encourage techniques in family group living. The scattered attempts that have been made in this direction tend to be specialized, and carry with them little implication of their larger importance.

For those who wish to resist the trend of the weakening of the family how shall we counsel them? These are some of the things which families so minded can do. What techniques can be cultivated to contribute to the ends they seek?

The Family Meal

The family meal is a recurrent and fundamental aspect of the family's life. And what happens in its course is more than a dietary procedure. It is while seated around the dining-room table that the family may be at its greatest ease, both physically and psychologically; that it is held together for definite periods of time; that it becomes engrossed in common objectives; and that it has fewer distractions than at most other times.

Family Projects

If most contemporary families no longer work together in the common task of operating a farm or small business, there are many leisure-time projects in which they may engage as family groups. Modern life is rich with the variety of such projects that are available, and the automobile combines with the shortened working day and week to make feasible participation in them.

The list of such projects is endless: building a vacation shack, a family orchestra, a trailer or camping trip in summer, a family basketball team, a vacant-lot garden, a family art exhibit, barber-shop harmony around the piano, father-son workshops in the basement, a family reading circle, the breeding of dogs or other animals, church activity, a golfing foursome, family games, a flower garden, or a small business as a side issue.

Family Rituals

In our efforts to study family life from within, as it were, our attention came to focus some years ago upon certain forms of family behavior which were so recurrent as to suggest the term habit and yet which had additional aspects or features not usually associated with that term. They were habits, plus.

Upon close examination, the plus included two things. First, the repetition had to be exact. It isn't enough to do the thing about or approximately the same way each time; it has to be done exactly the same way. Second, this exact repetition is accompanied by a definite sense of approval. This is the right, the proper, way.

We came finally to designate these habits plus as family rituals, and we defined them as patterns of family life, noticeable for their precise repetition, even to the point of becoming quite rigid, like a rite or ceremony in religious worship.

Rituals are of many different kinds. They grow out of the family's collective experience, and may develop in connection with almost any aspect of family life. Most of them, however, cluster around holidays, anniversaries, meals, vacations, religious worship, entertainment, and group ways of using leisure time. Often they are a heritage from the preceding generation, modified perhaps to fit into altered circumstances.

Following the above guidelines, family life can be greatly strengthened if a little time and effort are put into family meals, projects and rituals.
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