How do you create family harmony?

Seriously- this isn’t a “how to” post. This is a genuine cry for help…

First off- how do we define family harmony? Is there such a think as peaceful coexistence in a family? Or are we all just pretending?

How does a group of people with unique identities, individual ideas and different habits maintain their uniqueness while also supporting those they are related to?

We don’t really get to choose our family members- we get what we get and we shouldn’t get upset. Sure- people choose a partner- but after that…you don’t choose your parents, or siblings, or cousins… Even those who adopt or foster don’t really have much say: you might choose a birth mother, or you might decide to adopt post foster care, but really, it is what it is…

But how do we actually do it?

My adult daughter living at home. I will unequivocally state that she is a wonderful person. She is clean and respectful and has a laundry list of wonderful attributes…

However…

It doesn’t mean that little birds sing in our house and we all sit around the drum circle singing Kumbaya….It doesn’t mean that there aren’t raised voices and slammed doors and thinly veiled threats. And occasional bribes….Things are not always harmonious.

Now, it can be said that friction is healthy. If we never get angry or storm off in a rage, we are withholding feelings that will manifest in other ways later on. Kids are supposed to push boundaries with their parents. That is normal and healthy.

But it doesn’t always make for a happy living situation…

How do we develop good relationships with people so that, for the most part, family members don’t hate one another?

Has there ever been a parody about a happy family gathering? Or is it all just stories about how awful the relatives are?

Would appreciate tips for those seeking family harmony or any funny family stories about how relatives can be, let’s just say, unpredictable…

113 thoughts on “Family Harmony

  1. The key to building strong relationships is active listening skills. What that means is that when your daughter or any other person is telling you his/her side of the story, listen patiently without judging him/her. Things get out of hand when we take arguments personally. Debate the situation and not the person. People can be madly in love yet have totally different views about a situation. It depends on their understanding at their level of maturity. As elders, we need to be a wee bit more empathetic. Sorry if I hurt. Just putting across my version.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Peaceful coexistence? Hmmmm. I think that changes during various times in the lives of our family members. It is a bit like the eb and flow of the tides. What I’m realizing now in my own life is that my sons are grown men and their personalities are no longer the same as they were when they were kids living under my roof and I was the adult in charge. My oldest son has three kids . He will be 48 this year and sometimes I’ll slip up and say something to him that he perceives as me not recognizing him as a fully functioning adult. Lol The truth is I do see him as an amazing father and a mature adult. But what adult children don’t realize yet, is that we also see beyond that. We can see them as grown, but we also see all the stages it took for them to arrive at their current state. I can see the tall balding man with the gray beard in front of me, but in his smile I also see that blond curly haired little boy who ran around pretending to be Superman. So, as parents of adult children we have to carefully respect who they are today but also let them understand that we still cherish who they were when they were younger.
    .
    On the other hand watching our parents age is often difficult. Mine both have now passed and it is really tough to see once vital, strong individuals become frail and ill. When they are gone you miss them even with their flaws.

    Families take work. Even the best of families.
    I’m incredibly lucky. I never dreamed that my sons would be so amazing during my cancer treatments. I knew they loved me but was very surprised at how devoted they have been. That I did not expect how much I’d have to depend on them. They have been wonderful.

    And yet we can all get together and clash too. My sons often disagree because they are different as night and day, yet I know they’ll always be there for one another. Families say things to each other that they’d never say to others. Lol
    My youngest doesn’t live locally and I’m delighted when he visits. However, he can be annoying as all get out. There are still shades of that messy teenager who now that he is grown and is paid to direct others for a living, thinks he can tell everyone else what to do. I have to remind him that we are not on his set and I’m still boss of the world in my own home. Lol He’s used to being the boss at work.

    The key, I THINK, is trying to respect one another without hurting someone’s feelings. We have to see where they are coming from and hear them as who they are today and NOT who they WERE.
    It’s even more challenging with older adults. They can be cranky . Try to be patient. It sucks to get old. They know they are losing their footing and becoming less powerful, needed less for advice etc. TRY to be understanding. Before you know it they won’t be around anymore. And you’ll wish you had been more patient.

    That’s my advice as someone who is now the matriarch of my family. I didn’t ask for that role, but suddenly it was thrust on me. Roles in families change too as everyone ages… the whole thing is baffling!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. The respect is often so hard when it’s family…because you are all intimate…and you do treat family member differently than you would treat others…

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      1. Exactly! It is very difficult. I’m better at it now because I’m almost the age my mom was when she passed. I remember being short tempered with her sometimes. (Before she got sick), and I do wish I had been more accepting and patient. Now that I’m in my 70’s I think, “Gosh why did I have to call her out on every little thing?” For me there are no do overs. And while I wAs never rude, I could have been more understanding and let her quirkiness go. I tell my kids now… “Hey, I’ve earned the right to be a pain sometimes. Deal with it!“ And then we laugh. And I’m learning to give them their space. But it’s not always easy. 😳

        Liked by 1 person

    2. This matriarch thing drives me nuts. I want no part of it. And the next time anyone calls me mum or mom, if I didn’t birth them there will be a swift and unpleasant reaction from yours truly. (Unless I chicken out. More likely I will just suffer in silence). 😐

      Liked by 3 people

  3. CHAPSTICK AND BANDAIDS..that’s how I handle family. Chapstick to heal my lips when they stretch to twice their size as I try to contain everything I REALLLLY want to say…bandaids for my husband’s shins when I kick them under the table. 👍

    Liked by 7 people

      1. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s perfect..it’s just easier. I really LOATHE drama & fighting..so if me absorbing some “crap” helps keep the arguing at bay, I’ll do it. It’s somewhat self-sacrificial, but again..it’s just easier. NOW MY HUSBAND on the other hand…he needs some reminding of how important peace is to me..hence the kicking and eyeball rolling/widening.😳

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The only way that I know of is for the family individually and together to pray and ask Jesus for help and the Holy Spirit for guidance. This diverts self-defensiveness and righteousness from each other.

    Here are some things to try: (1) pray before meals together, (2) read the Bible, (3) repent of your own failings, (4) forgive so you don’t have to point a finger, (4) ask the Holy Spirit for help when things don’t work.

    You are here with your family for only a few decades. These short decades, however, are significant. The purpose of a family is not to make individuals in the family happy, but to give the individuals an opportunity to serve Jesus by serving each other. Don’t waste these years.

    If you are a typical American I know what I said sounds silly, but as I said at the beginning I don’t know of any other way.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. If it works for your family then it’s certainly not silly. My family is Jewish and some of our best family gatherings are at our Passover Seder and our Chanukah Celebrations. BatMitsvahs, Weddings, even funerals where the family prays together does seem to unite family members. Whatever your faith, when families come together in love and prayer it usually is a wonderful and spiritual experience. So I say, if it brings your gang closer than go for it. I’ve never seen families fighting during our High Holiday services in Temple. There is something to be said for worshiping together.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! That’s funny, Deb. I think as a whole, my family gets along really well. But sometimes there are indeed personality clashes. Misunderstandings when my younger son comes to town. He tries to see everyone and work into every one’s schedule all during a limited visit time and invariably someone gets their feelings hurt because he didn’t spend enough time with them. We try for a big gathering but it’s always a challenge to get everyone together during a specific day and time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The trying to visit people is tough. We went to California a few years ago. We probably know 15 people there, between friends and family. We decided to see no one so everyone would be hurt equally…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lesley, I might say that my family in general gets along, but there are definitely times it’s more like simply tolerating each other

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve had older children live with us and their partners. Your right – you can’t choose your family. Ours is loving, generous, fun and understanding. Not perfect, rough round the edges and we each have our funny qualities. My children HATE my perpetual generosity. So I’ve stopped offering gifts – now I just buy them instead of asking if they want it. I still get raised eyebrows.
    We have all learned to fight the battles we can hope to win. I let my daughter in law get away with things- she lets me have my indulgences with my grandchildren. But we all set the boundaries..

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You’re asking ME? I’m the one who packed up and moved away just last night because of the lack of harmony which is 90% my own doing, I realize this… But I have no answers.

    I am lucky, fortunate, to have the opportunity to go somewhere else and cool off. But it’s getting tiresome and some major decisions need to be made. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives…

    Or something.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Harmony started after the ex left and when we divorced. No more worse than Marie Barone MIL intrusions into our home unannounced, nor dealing with her entitled controlling narcissism, nor my struggling to make nice because it was his mother. No more walking on eggshells around an ex whose narcissistic ways were unpredictable. I could BREATHE after he left (even though I would have never believed it before that moment).
    And thus, once the kids and I were on our own, I established ‘all for one and one for all’ bonding. Is it harmonious here 100% of the time? Nope. Do we all take alone time and family time together? Yup. Do we sometimes bite our tongues and whoops, sometimes not? Yup. But overall, the three of us know we can count on each other and that’s the glue that holds us together and harmonious, even when we want to do things our own ways.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It made me insane because I never felt like we had privacy. They would also drive-by after their son left our home and see whose car was at my house as if I were doing something bad (and I wasn’t). Glad yours wasn’t a Marie Barone.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ok…I’ll tell you a marie barons story. We didn’t watch ELR but I knew the character. One day I took my daughter to a screening of I think a Sesame Street thing at museum of broadcasting. Before out program they were doing an ELR thing. My daughter (she was about 4) says..she’s like grandma R…I just lost it…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. For me, what has helped is giving up the need to be right, recognizing there are times when it is wise to keep my thoughts to myself, and assuming that we’re all just doing the best we can. And I can’t overstate the value of a sense of humor….

    Liked by 2 people

  9. As a mom and grandma, I offer the following :
    1. continue to perfect your listening skills
    2. develop a strong sense of humour
    3. refuse to hold grudges ( family members get cranky sometimes)
    4. pray for harmony – God loves families.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Oh LA, I appreciate how you put yourself out there because I know how hard it is to be vulnerable. As Lisa said, every family has dysfunction. Every single, effing family. As long as you know there are absolutely no perfect families, I feel like that helps. Because there is a lot of pressure to create this “happy family” that isn’t even a thing.

    Here are a few mantras that have helped me over the past year:

    Don’t take anything personally.
    Don’t believe everything you think.
    And here is a quote that has helped me ENORMOUSLY …”do you prefer to be right or happy?”

    Sending you so much love. If you ever want to vent, I have an email address attached to my blog. Use it any time.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for wise words and support!!I think we need to put it out there that there is no perfect…so many people are chasing it, and it doesn’t exist!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. That is always a difficult situation. I try to listen to my family and try to understand why there is friction and what I can to to try and make it better. Sometimes it means giving someone space. Sometimes it is realizing that they feel they aren’t being heard, so I sit and listen and try to understand. Sometimes it requires giving someone a reality check. Sometimes I need the reality check and someone to call me out for being thoughtless or whatever. It really depends on the situation. I have learned that the absolute best way to handle all of it is to keep open and honest communication with everyone in the family. When everyone feels safe voicing what they need, those times of friction are few and far between. Sadly, I have also learned that there are some people that simply cannot live in the same space and being happy at the same time. Everyone is different. Trying to balance the differences between people that live under one roof can be extremely challenging.

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  12. My 22 year old daughter has been living at home since graduating college last year. The 19 year old son just joined us after completing his freshman year at college. We are all navigating living together without my husband. We get a bit prickly at times but we don’t let it snowball.
    Saw a knife in the sink before leaving for work with a half cup of peanut butter left on it—no one was there to hear me swear.
    Son has a physically demanding job for the summer—he thinks no one in the world has ever worked as hard as he has, lol.
    Daughter is very helpful–but neither of them really know how much work it takes to keep the house going.
    If only the washer and dryer weren’t in the basement, my life would be a dream.
    Just started working out again and can barely make it up and down the stairs.
    Sometimes I want to be a bit harder on both my kids but then I realize I don’t know what it is like to be a 19 or a 22 year old who just lost their father so I hold my tongue.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re all going through a transition…you really need to take it a minute at a time…but kid adults….it’s hard to figure out the roles we all what to play

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t think family harmony exists. With my kids, I went through a tough time when my son was a senior in high school. Now he’s so easy to get along with. In the meantime, now I’m struggling with my daughter. She seems so caustic and itching to make us uncomfortable. I always say the wrong thing to her. I can only hope this will pass.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I have to watch my words with my brother, my dad and recently my daughter. I guess they see me as a rabble rouser, when in reality we have different ideas and opinions.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Age helps! Five of us from three generations just spent five weeks together. We had two of our three children here, one grandchild who lives here, and the other who came to visit for a weekend. There were no fights. The oldest is pushing 80, and the youngest is 21. I believe there is a secret, and that secret is good manners. All of them are New Yorkers, but I grew up in Tennessee where manners were prized back then. Manners are still important to me, and the rest of them know it. They did not verbally attack each other, and in deference to John and me, they tried to curb their swearing. We are far from perfect, and there were tensions, but everyone strove to get along and work things out without acrimony.

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  15. Not really sure but yes, listening helps some. Occasional counseling might help too if one is willing to accept that they may have flaws and may need to compromise. I’m not sure if harmony is achieved but peaceful coexistence is my goal.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. How do we develop good relationships with people so that, for the most part, family members don’t hate one another?

    A large part of this is accepting everyone for who they are and not attempting to change someone to suit our needs. Enforcing boundaries and also not manipulating family members into doing things are also tied for second place.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Lots of great advice in the comments, but I have something you can do for yourself. LA, watch The Durrells in Corfu, which can be streamed via Amazon Prime. After viewing a few episodes you may feel much better about your own situation. It is amusing and extreme as it takes dysfunctional family to a whole new level, but there is positivity to it as well because the mother tries so hard!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Difficult and beautiful. When we were a family unit proper, meaning all living under the same roof, it was hard. We did the best we could with the tools we had. As I think back on that time now, it occurs to me that we never really looked for outside advice on how to make the living situation healthier, in part, due to ignorance, and, in part, being comfortable, as crazy as that might read. And, when one of us did finally, after 20 years of essentially living the same way, the marriage began to dissolve. Yet, I will write here that all 4 of us are stronger and more empowered, even with all of the hardness that we’ve all endured, now than we were ever before. Okay, no more writing, for now…😉

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  19. I think it’s a learning process for everyone involved. When my daughter was a teenager and still living at home we were fairly young ourselves (me and my husband, her stepdad). Wisdom hadn’t fully developed yet so we made some mistakes. We probably could have listened more without jumping to conclusions. We could have focused a little less on character flaws and more on achievements. When kids are growing up and changing, some of us as adults are busy and things are so hectic that we don’t always remember to stop to check in on our kids when they’re growing up and getting a bit moody or distant from us. We just want them to stay the sweet little kids that obediently followed us around and didn’t give us much trouble. Now that I’m older I’ve learned so much and wish I had the same skills in my early 30’s as I now have in my 50’s. Thankfully, my daughter has reassured us, now that she’s older too, that we were good parents and she appreciates all that we did for her and how hard we tried. If I could do it over again I’d be a little more patient and understanding, even when inside I was feeling uncomfortable about a situation. For example, curfew. I’m very thankful and grateful that our daughter gave us no serious problems. I hope we had at least a little to do with that. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the whole thing…she’s given us no serious issues…it’s just navigating the adult parent child relationship…one day I’ll figure it out

      Liked by 2 people

  20. My family puts the fun in dysfunctional! My 2 older brothers and my older sister talk rarely and live such different lives from one another, have different memories growing up it is a wonder that we are related at all. My 2 kids both have strong personalities, my daughter can’t get over being the oldest so she thinks she is so much smarter than her brother. My son, has a chip on his shoulder because he didn’t get the grades his sister did. The air is charged when they get together once a year. My son knows it upsets me when they fight so he just leaves the room. Hoping this September for my son’s wedding, my daughter will be a little more self aware and realize this is his time. My main job is to basically demand that at the very least everyone shows respect to one another. We can disagree but deep down respect is paramount.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. my husband and I both grew up in homes that were violent and serious drug abuse. So that made us do everything the exact opposite of the chaos we knew. I don’t allow yelling and fighting in my house or talking over each other. We do have disagreements but we have to figure it out quickly or my nerves get really bad.

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  22. That’s a tough one! It requires tact, honesty, and sometimes distance, which doesn’t really help in your situation. I think people who live together are just naturally going to get on each other’s nerves from time to time, and even the relatives we don’t live with can annoy us without meaning to. It’s even worse when they do mean to….

    Liked by 1 person

  23. We do okay. Well, about 90% of the time. My husband gets so stressed with his job this time of year that anything can set up a confrontation. I hadn’t slept much in about a four day period. Made the mistake of mentioning how tired I was….it’s inconceivable to him that I can be tired. We had quite the heated discussion. In our marriage he’s never been able to grasp that I might be stressed out. I maintain that every job has its stress—even that of a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Even when I was teaching and had a class of 30 6th graders he pooh-poohed my stress. I’m supposed to tread lightly when he’s stressed, (and I do), but I don’t get the same consideration. It’s weird and frustrating because otherwise he’s very supportive.

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  24. Like this question and its good timing as we are gong through some friction now, but I don’t have any clear cut answers for you! Its more just the knowledge of knowing that you do truly love each other, and that’s what helps us put up with each others flaws and quirks, as we …smack our heads.. and and at times think how admittance to a rubber room may be close to happening. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Face it, since we turn 50 there’s not much more we’re going to change. Actually it’s true much earlier in life so your daughter won’t want to change. Accept the status quo for what it is, or just forget about the whole thing because trying to change to make someone else feel better is a losing proposition

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Talk about opening Pandora’s Box and inviting faintly veiled chaos to join you in the comments? Family harmony is an oxymoron in my experience. If your agendas clash there’s going to be trouble in the homestead! C

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I think it is about accepting for what your family members are. And if your daughter is slamming the doors, you just ignore, meaning you don”t react immediately, but you respond later on, ask her why is she so angry. Ask her sincerely and caringly.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I get it! I have two wonderful adult children and five terrific grandkids, but when we have to be in close proximity for any length of time, someone is liable to have a meltdown. Two weeks at my daughter’s home in Illinois while my grandson was having surgery was beyond my limit. If they hadn’t seriously needed me I’d have come home after the first week. My 9 year old grandkid was the bright spot. Everyone else pretty much got in my nerves.

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