Thermometer for the family

Thermometer for the family
Measuring relationships with your loved ones 

Suffice to say that the family of the 21st century has little if any time for one another - family members appear distant as they leave for work at the crack of dawn while they return late at night.

If there are children involved in the equation then the temporary nannies are the TV, computers and electronic gadgets.

          There's no relationship with each other. No time to communicate. When the child wants to talk to their parents, the latter has no time. When parents want to talk with their children, it's the same result because they are busy playing video games.

          A void is created where feelings are misunderstood and family problems emerge.

          Family warmth is a prerequisite and very important. One tool that a family can use on a daily basis is a thermometer to measure family warmth.

          The following 5-tier concept was developed by noted American psychotherapist Virginia Satir and must begin with the first step without omitting any of the remaining steps.

1.  Have you praised or given thanks

           Ask whether you have given praise or appreciation when appropriate. This cannot be excluded and should be done frequently. This is a door to two-way communication among you and other family members.

Praise must be genuine. Emphasis is on the true aspects of giving thanks instead of just saying "thank you". This step cannot be omitted because feeling good about ourselves will allow us to accept others and open a two-way communication channel. Again, you must speak of the truth with a true heart.

2.  Are there any question

           After the praise and appreciation, there will be the opportunity to talk to one another. Within the family it is recommended that chances are given to ask one another questions. Sometimes the child will want to ask why daddy comes home late? The father might want to ask about how the child is doing in school or whether he or she has friends?

  3.  Recommendatio

           In every family there should be an atmosphere of recommendation or giving advice. For example, the child should be given the task of recommending what type of movies the family will be going to see. What activity should be incorporated? What type of change is to be instilled in the family (such as home improvements for a cleaner house)?

  4.  The right to complai

           Everyone should have the right to complain. Even mum can complain.

For example, she can complain that she is tired and her child hasn't tidied up after playing with her toys. On the other hand, the child can complain about the food. Even dad can complain too.

5.  Expectation

           In a warm family everyone should be able to talk about their expectations or aspirations. For example, children might expect their parents to stay home on weekends or take them out for the day.

           All of these 5 steps should be done at least once a week. There should be a set time period such as before eating, after eating or in the evening, before watching TV, or watching TV together.

           Family life will become warm and you will be able to reach an understanding. At least each family member will be able to speak out.

Whether the child is able to do it or not is a separate issue. Just to understand that this is what the child wants is important.

For example, the child wants a puppy. Mum says the timing is not right because the family residence is a condominium. There is no room for a dog to run around.

          Talk with the child and ask him whether he can wait or is there anything else he or she wants? Or the mother might expect her husband to eat dinner together at least once a week. Inform the father.

          If you don't have the time to do all 5 steps, the first step cannot be omitted. Always praise and say thank you. It should be a routine, though not necessarily done everyday. Once a week is fine or once a month.

          Thai society usually does not accept the fact that adults can apologise to the younger generation. However, adults can often make mistakes. Parents feel bad because they hurt the feelings of their children.

          Parents might have done their best at that moment, but apologising or saying sorry makes both the person who is being apologised to and the person who is actually saying it feel better. This is the primary goal and it creates a bond.

          Using a thermometer for the family will develop the potential of children in new directions.

BangkokPost, myfamily July 22-28,, 2010   
By Dr Penny Lorwatanapongsa is a psychiatrist at Manarom Hospital