Are you as close with your family as you would like to be? If your answer to this question is no, maybe it’s time to take a step back and evaluate how you interact with your loved ones. Are you inadvertently doing something to alienate them? Are you just not spending as much time with them as you'd like? You can strengthen your family bonds by keeping in mind the following:

Labels Hurt

All of us can look at our own families and a name quickly pops into our mind of that one person who always is in trouble. The trouble could be with the law or that person is just troublesome to get along with. We jokingly refer to this person in our family reunions as a “black sheep” and we usually freely say that because the person usually is not there. But even though this troubled family member is not at the reunion or any other family gathering, he or she still knows what his or her label is -- a "black sheep." Never label a member of our family a "black sheep" unless we never want to see them again.

A label such as this will stick with a person and be especially hurtful when it comes from within the person’s family. Typically, when this situation occurs, you will see the troubled person withdraw and avoid showing up at family events. Why should he or she bother? This family member will only go there to experience feelings of rejection and alienation. And it may take a lot to get the person to ever show up.

Insults from family are especially hurtful. A troubled family member usually knows exactly why he or she is a "black sheep" and already feels bad enough about it. The "black sheep" probably wants a chance for restoration into the family. Of course, if the person who has this label got this reputation because he or she was a danger to someone or hurt someone, the issue is totally different. However, we are referring to someone who has personality oddities or who is known for trouble as a child. Whatever made him or her a "black sheep" usually happened a long time ago and it is time to forget about it for that person’s sake.

So watch it with your labels on family members. It could haunt -- and hurt -- them forever.

Making Time for Family

Many people live each day as if it were the last day of their lives. This kind of lifestyle is a source of continuous stress because of the false perception of having very little time to do so many things. In trying to continually keep up with accomplishing duties, people actually neglect to live and enjoy life to the fullest. Most often, families are the ones that suffer from this kind lifestyle. They end up being relegated to the back burner.

Just imagine...

You hear about your children's progress and developments from their nanny because your kids are already sound asleep by the time you get home from work. You promise to watch your children when they have games at school, but you tend to miss those because your job is too demanding and important. With so many people without work, you rationalize to yourself and your children your preoccupation with your work because you do what you do for the sake of your family. You are so busy trying to provide for them that you have forgotten all about them in the process. Then one day, you wake up you find that your little children are not living at home with you anymore. They've become adults that you hardly know. They're more like strangers and prefer to seek advice from friends instead of you. And you quietly ponder the nagging question, "What did I do wrong?"

In a perfect world, you should spend lots of quality time with your family while still you are earning enough for their needs as they grow up. However, we don't live in a perfect world. You are off to work most of the time. So what do you do? You find ways to make the best out of what you have. This means taking the extra effort to spend at least a weekend or two each month with your family. You can go on a family vacation and dedicate all your time and undivided attention to your family.

Family vacations are sources of precious memories that adults and children relive repeatedly as time goes by. Family vacations help in creating strong bonds and solidifying the relationships among family members. Family vacations do not have to be expensive; you can camp out in the woods over the weekend, visit your grandparents and have a Sunday barbecue with them or go on a fishing trip with the spouse and kids. What is most important is that you spend uninterrupted time together as a family!

How Well Do You Know Your Family?

How well do you know your family? You live with them day and night. You spend most of your free time with them. You think of them more than twenty times every day. Do you really know each one of them? If you were to participate on a TV game show and you have to answer questions about your family, would you be able to answer all the questions and get all the points?

Do you know who your daughter’s favorite singer is? What is your son’s average point per game in the current basketball season? Do you know what position he plays? What about your spouse’s current favorite food? Can you answer all of these questions with confidence? Yes? Perhaps not, because you are too busy trying to provide them with all the comforts of life and too tired to pay attention to any of them when they talk to you.

If this is the situation you are presently in, do something -- immediately! Otherwise, it may be too late and you will find yourself surrounded by strangers who happen to be your children. Everybody desires some attention. People do not like to talk to empty rooms. If you do not listen soon enough, your family will obviously turn to somebody else who is willing to listen to them.

You may be in the same situation but being an adult, you can talk to them about yourself. Share with them your weaknesses, your plans and hopes, your fears. Share with your spouse and children your feelings of strength and weaknesses; this way, they will see you as just like themselves. You aren't simply going to be the busy person who comes home in the evening, eats, watches TV and tells them how hard it is to earn money. Your family will be able to understand you better; they will share your passions and problems.

If you keep the aforementioned points in perspective, you should be better able to keep your family bonds strong. Remember your family's needs and it will make for a much happier home life!

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