Family Communication is Critical

(with or without the family reunion)

Family communication is critical during all phases of family reunion planning. From the save the date postcard to the registration confirmation, your family wants to stay informed.

Ask for ideas with an interest survey, send a save the date postcard just as soon as you have the date confirmed, request ideas for activities, tell family how much it will cost, give deadlines, state what to bring and what to expect. No one likes to feel left out, ignored or taken advantage of. Effective communication helps identify purpose and share the workload.

So what is effective communication?

It’s a two-way street – talking AND listening. It’s the process of exchanging thoughts and ideas as well as emotions and feelings.

And why are we concerned about the importance of family communication?

Because it enables family members to share their wants, needs and concerns with each other. Author Stephen Covey feels that simple MISunderstanding is at the heart of most family pain. Honest communication is essential for building a strong family culture.

Open and honest communication creates an atmosphere that allows family members to express their differences as well as love and admiration for one another. It is through communication that family members are able to resolve the unavoidable problems that arise in all families. (“Families First: Keys to Successful Family Functioning,” published by Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension)

Families often have difficulty finding time to be with one another. It’s a challenge for nuclear families and it’s an even greater problem for extended families.

But here’s the deal.

We have to make time to communicate. Family communication encourages family bonds… family bonds boost the desire for and frequency of family gatherings… and family gatherings provide an even greater opportunity (and need) for family communication. It’s a cyclical effect. One leads to, supports, and strengthens the other.

communication triangle

Researchers agree that clear, open, and
frequent communication is a basic characteristic
of a strong, healthy family.

How to build effective family communication

(from Virginia Tech)

  • Communicate frequently – turn off the television, pick up the phone, send an email, write a letter
  • Communicate clearly and directly – say what it is that you want to say
  • Be an active listener – acknowledge and respect the other person’s point of view
  • Communicate openly and honestly – this sets the stage for trusting relationships
  • Think about the person with whom you are communicating – consider age and maturity
  • Pay attention to non-verbal messages – body language may contradict what is being said
  • Be positive – verbally compliment and encourage one another

If the slumping economy has dipped into your travel plans, and therefore your family reunion plans, don’t let your lack of reunion attendance be an excuse to lose touch with your extended family. If you don’t physically see your relatives, it just means you’ll need to make an extra effort to stay in touch. With or without a family reunion, consider these...

Ways to stay in touch

  • Call on the phone
    Make it a weekly family tradition to call your parents or siblings each Sunday. If the conversation feels awkward or uncomfortable, it means you need to call more often.
  • Send birthday cards
    My kids make and send birthday cards to all their cousins. Everyone loves mail!
  • Blog
    I love blogging – the reading and writing! What a fun way to stay in touch with loved ones.
  • Hold family meetings
    Every family has business and/or logistical items to discuss. Nuclear families could meet weekly. Extended families should take advantage of the family reunion.
  • Write a family letter
    Our family does this the old fashioned way – with stamps, envelopes and USPS. Each family reports “news,” which is assembled into a letter and sent out each month. Even if I’ve talked to my siblings recently, I still always learn something new by reading the family letter.

  • Use email
    Create a family distribution list in your address book and send a “Hey, how are you?” note once a month.
  • Create a website
    Count down the days until your next extended family gathering.

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