In a country where the notions of personal space and individual freedom are still in its nascent stages, living in a joint family is the reality for most people. Chances are your parents probably grew up in joint families and like it or not, the Indian family structure just isn’t going to vanish abruptly. Here are some tips to live happily and cordially in a joint family.
- Know your priorities – Knowing what you want for yourself and your spouse/children will help. Setting the extremely important values and the flexible rules apart in your head will help you prioritize and make reasonable decisions without guilt viz. your child’s dance competition versus picking up a distant relative.
- Boundaries – However close knit a family might be, there are always subtle boundaries and limits to how much say you have in others’ lives. Know and say how much is expected out of you and/or how much will be received gracefully by others. Untimely or unwarranted advice or action often leads to hurt and unnecessary squabbles. Decisions for the entire family should be taken collectively. Each family has its own ways of arriving at a consensus.
- Communicate effectively – This not only means speaking your mind but also knowing when to keep quiet. If you are an emotionally sensitive person and are anxious about getting hurt or hurting others in your family consider the following – think, decide (write it down if required), rehearse (if necessary) and then make your point to your family so that you are able to communicate exactly what you want and why you want something to be done.
- Trust and Respect: Try to understand how and why a family member thinks feels or behaves in a certain way. Empathize and connect with them or different levels. Respect the age and experience of elderly family members if not for any other reason; communicate accordingly.
- Quality time: Although it is difficult for us to manage time between our work and personal lives, try to set up a ‘quality time schedule’ within your family. Keep time spent with your spouse/children separate from the time spent with the rest of the family. You can also plan kids’ time, men’s, ladies night out and family gatherings.
- Money matters: Keep money matters very transparent. Discuss it with your spouse, then your entire family. Communicate very clearly and stick to the plan agreed upon.
- You can’t please everyone: It is just impossible that everyone loves you at all given points in time. There will be ups and downs in a relationship. Moving beyond these difficult times is the key. Let go of petty issues and if someone’s approval is important for you, then communicate and resolve issues.
- Don’t try to change people: No one is perfect; NOT even you. Get a reality check. If someone is not willing to change or even to accept feedback, you will just be wasting time, energy and effort over trying to change others. If things are getting too difficult for you, talk to a counsellor.
- Small things: Find happiness in small things and events like watching a movie together, outings, evening walks, cooking food, playing board games, eating meals together, etc. These helps create a strong emotional bond.
- Look beyond the bad verbal bouts: Take your time to get over hurt, guilt or upset feelings. But over time, let go, apologize and/or forgive (ideal and recommended) and patch up with your family.
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