How To Build Your Family Support System
When you have a healthy family support system, you are surrounded with family members or friends that you have a positive relationship with, who encourage you in your choices and trials, and are there through the good and bad experiences of life – they don’t leave when it gets tough. It’s one of the most valuable things your family can have.
Building a healthy family support system can be a constant journey and a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. The beautiful thing is that it looks different for everyone. For some, it may be made up of mostly extended family. For others, friends, coworkers, or just one or two trusted people may make up the family support system. Whatever the make-up, it’s one of the most valuable treasures you can have to ensure your family thrives.
5 Ways To Build A Healthy Support System
If you are looking to build a healthy family support system, or strengthen one that you already have, these five steps are a great place to start:
Be the support you’re seeking. You’ve probably heard it said that “we teach people how to treat us.” This is also true when looking for a family support system. To those that you love and trust most, demonstrate the support you’re looking for by supporting them. Cheer them on in their healthy goals and through their life’s challenges. This might look like setting up a babysitting exchange so you can take turns having a solid date night, arranging to have lunch with your friend who really needs to talk through some issues she’s facing, or even just sending an encouraging note. Be the support that you are seeking for your own family support system.
Move your circle of relationships to a deeper level. We are all busy, so building a family support system from scratch isn’t always realistic. Think about those people that you love and trust most in your life, and consider ways that you can take your relationship to a deeper level.
You’ll know if they are willing to have a deeper, authentic and transparent relationship with you based on your interactions with them. Do they offer encouragement and have a positive interest in your life? If so, the next time you are together, tell them that you are looking for some additional support for your family support system and outline what you are looking for. Make sure you share how they have been a positive influence in their life and that you would love for them to be a part of your support system. If you’ve chosen the right person, they will be excited to grow deeper roots with you.
Don’t forget about coworkers, neighbors, and others in your life. People who you see every day are often great people to add to your family’s support system. They can provide an additional safe place for your children, supply wisdom and guidance in your parenting journey, or invite you to community events that maybe you wouldn’t have been aware of before. This is also a great way to build a family support system without adding anything extra to your plate or schedule.
Consider your family’s childcare provider or school organizations as part of your family support system. Your children likely spend a good deal of time in childcare or at school. If this is the case, don’t forget to look at these groups of people as part of your family support system; they already are, afterall! They are your partners in educating and raising your children. As part of your family support system, they invest in your family and have the best in mind for your children. Ask questions whenever you can and invite feedback on behavior, communication style and anything that you can be working on at home. If your schedule allows, get involved in the activities provided and maintain positive relationships with the people who work there, including teachers, principals, and other parents.
Skip the negative Nancys and other toxic people. In a perfect world, we could completely ignore the people who bring us down. But in working to put your family support system together, it’s imperative that you focus on bringing in the positive people who will encourage you and your family to contribute to the world instead of tearing it down.
It’s totally permissible to be cordial to people without inviting them into your family support system if you know the experience will not be positive for each of your family members. If you are hosting a gathering, don’t feel obligated to invite someone who will bring a negative essence to the event. Instead, if it comes up, politely say that you have kept the gathering intimate in order to keep your stress-level low.
If you’d like to distance yourself from someone who repeatedly brings you down at work, bring it up with your supervisor to devise an appropriate plan of action. If your negative Nancy is in another environment where you don’t have a meditator to help, politely explain to the person how you are feeling, being careful to not use words that place blame or accuse (stay away from “You always do xyz” and instead say “I have been feeling stressed/undervalued/sad about….”) If they respond negatively, aim to make choices that will physically distance you from the person so that opportunities for them to bring you down are lessened as much as possible.
As spring brings new life, it also provides an opportunity for you to breathe new life into your family support system by being more intentional about your relationships. Be open and genuine with those you love and trust about how they can help support you and your family.
Your goal for the month is this: have an open conversation with one person in your support system this month. Over the next year, be on the lookout for people and groups who can play a role in supporting your family’s well-being. Your family will be that much more set up for success when surrounded by people who will positively influence and care for you!