Our house doesn’t seem like a home at all. It’s just a place to eat and sleep. We fight a lot, and we’re all going in different directions. What can I do to bring us together?
The answer to this question will vary a lot from family to family. But you asked what you can do to bring your family together.
First of all, you must realize that straightening out your family does not rest on your shoulders. You are a child in the family and often will not have any control over what goes on. If your family has serious problems, perhaps the only way that changes can be made is through outside help.
But one person can make a difference. If you would like to have a good relationship with your parents and your brothers and sisters, there are some things that you can do to help the situation.
It helps to talk. For example, if every conversation you have with your mother seems to end in a fight, try a new communication approach. Tell your mother that you don’t want to argue, you would just like to talk. Tell her how you feel, and then listen carefully when she tells you how she feels. It may not solve everything, but learning to talk rather than just arguing is a great place to start.
Do the same with brothers and sisters. Resist the urge to yell first and ask questions later. For example, if a brother won’t stay out of your things, sit down and talk about it. Offer to lend him what he needs if he asks first and then returns it.
Support your brothers and sisters. You can become closer to your brothers and sisters if you become interested in their lives. For example, if your older brother plays on a sports team, go to his games. If your sister sings in a choir, go to her concerts. Don’t criticize or tease them on how they do. Point out the good things and skip saying anything about the bad. Don’t go just once. Try to go every time they perform. It will mean a lot to them, and they will likely support you in the same way.
Plan a family activity. Take the initiative and plan an activity or ask if you can plan a family home evening for the whole family. You can ask your mother and father for help, but if they are too busy, go ahead and plan it yourself. Don’t be discouraged if your idea is not met with overwhelming enthusiasm or if some family members refuse to participate. If the first try doesn’t work out, don’t get angry and give up. Rethink your plan and try again.
Keep your promises. One thing you can do to make home a nicer place is to follow through on the things you are asked to do. For instance, if your dad asks you to help in the yard and you said you would, don’t make conflicting plans and then try to get out of your commitment to your father. If your mom needs your help in preparing dinner or cleaning up afterwards, don’t complain; just do it. If you have a curfew, don’t miss it. Be home when you say you are going to be home. This trustworthiness on your part can stop a lot of arguments before they ever get started.
But even after all your efforts, there are many things about a family that are beyond your control. All you can control is how you act. Your kindness and consideration for your family can make a big difference in the atmosphere of your home.
Remember, you can turn for help to teachers, advisers, and your bishop. And, your Heavenly Father is always there to listen to and comfort you.
Try eating together. You might think this is impossible, but scheduling dinner around family activities helps.
If you’re going in different directions, follow each other. Attend their activities. If you’re aware of what they’re doing, you might find it easier to talk than to yell.
Shiloh Parkinson, 14 Idaho Falls, Idaho
My dad announced a “pet peeve” night. During family home evening, each member of the family writes down things that other members of the family do that bother him without mentioning any names. Dad reads them out loud. We all try to stop doing the things that bother other members of the family. We had so much fun with it, we have a “pet peeve” night about three times a year.
Mitch Alley, 15 Spokane, Washington
If the family is going in all different directions, each one should be willing to give up time to have a family activity or outing. As people start to realize their problems and work them out, the whole family can become close and the house feel like a home.
Vicky Brugger, 14 Warsaw, New York
I decided to pray about it. I asked the Lord if he could tell me why we were always fighting and if he could stick with me through it all, so I could be a better family member. Soon I was doing a little bit better. I controlled my temper. I gave more to other family members, and I tried to develop better relationships with them. You know, Heavenly Father is there whenever you need him.
Karen Thomas, 13 Orem, Utah
I try to make it different, I really do. But there is always someone behind me undoing the work I’ve already done. The only thing that I find helps the situation is don’t fight back; be the peacemaker; stay calm and reasonable; don’t get rebellious. Do something that all the family members enjoy. Maybe your family will realize how much you mean to each other.
As I prepare for a mission after finishing a year of college, I have a new feeling for family. Every day I try to spend some quality time with a brother or sister or parent. I read to my little sister, drive my little brothers somewhere, go cruising with my other brother, or just sit and talk to my sisters about guys and girls and college. I talk with my parents on their level.
Travis Manning, 19 Tacoma, Washington
A home was given to us by our Heavenly Father to find peace in, to show how you care about each other and how you love those who are in your home. Encourage your family to have family home evenings, family prayers, family activities, and most important ask them to have a family fast. By doing all these things with a clean, pure, and sincere heart, you are bound to receive an answer from the Lord.
Taiai T. Pisa, 14 Wellington, New Zealand
I decided that I should try to be the peacemaker rather than waiting for other family members to change. I first started by praying to my Heavenly Father to help me go throughout the day with a smiling face and to obey my father and mother and to get along with my sister. Then I started reading and studying the scriptures, which made a big difference.
Julie Gustafson Parkville, Missouri
All too well do I know how difficult it is being in a home where everyone is going in different directions at once. I also remember running from that environment. All of that changed when our family started to separate. The oldest went to college, and even though she was only an hour away, we learned how much she meant to us. We started to communicate with each other. We started to say, “I love you.” With those simple realizations and with a little effort, we ended up with a quiet, relaxing home that my friends loved to come to.
Elder Christiansen, 20 Missouri Independence Mission
Gather everyone together for a family conference. You can tell them how you feel and let everyone express their views and give suggestions. Probably they feel the same way you do. Try to come up with a peaceful solution. Also you might see about the possibility of going to a family counselor who would help you sort out your problems.
Erin Johnson, 13 Provo, Utah
In our family it is tradition that all the kids hug and kiss our mother, father, and grandparents after family prayers are said. If your parents are nonmembers, you can still give them a hug or kiss before bedtime. It may be hard at first, but after a while it will not be as difficult to say, “I love you.” I think actually hearing it said is the key.
Jenny Lyn Barrick, 14 Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
I realized that the key to making our home a place I could live comfortably, and maybe even invite the Spirit, would be for me to be the starting link in the chain. It begins with one. Why not you? Don’t wait for someone else to make the change; do it yourself. Hopefully the other family members will catch on.
Julie Anderson, 19 Groton, Connecticut