The roles of family dynamics to our mental health

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the one’s that accept you for who you are. The one’s who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.”

Anonymous

Family, as defined in our contemporary American society, is comprised of those individuals in our lives who provide unconditional love and respect to one another.

The family may not be just having a Mother and Father, or of those other kinships related by blood, but may be a circle of close friends and companions who come into our lives on our journey of life.

Family is indeed comprised of those individuals who have unconditional love and friendship for one another; those who help us maintain our individual homeostasis, our balance, and our good mental health; and those of whom we are saddened when we are separated from them.

Coming from a very dysfunctional family, one where abuse and neglect were ever present, I left home at age 15 to work on a cattle ranch, for a two year period. At age 17 I joined the United States Air Force.

I shall never forget our Tactical Instructor (TI) telling us on that first day of basic training, “I am your Mother and your Father. Look around you at these other men here with you…they are your Brothers. If you follow my orders, and obey the rules and regulations, we are going to get along just fine.” And how true that statement was; he was most assuredly our parental figure.

My comrades and I slept in close proximity in open-bay barracks, marched continuously together, ate our meals in the mess halls together, laughed and griped together, attended classes together, and utilized the common latrines and showers together, and the virtues of being good and doing good were reinforced. We were a family, and the first real functional family I had ever known.

After basic training and assigned to a technical center for aircraft avionics training, the same was to hold true; a new close-knit family of comrades. Then, I was assigned to my first permanent base in Texas and found a new family; a family who many of us members still stay in contact with to this date. I learned the meaning of family with my Air Force comrades, as so many of millions of those who served in the military had done before us.

The lessons I learned from my Air Force experience were to aid me tremendously when I married and my wife and I had children of our own…family was the most important part of our lives.

When our children became adults and married, they gave us grand-children; our family became extended with other kinships, and the unconditional love and friendship filled our lives. And our friendships with others encountered on our long journey of life began to grow as well; and do so to this day.

No my friend, family is not just about blood lines, but extends to others and grows with us.

I have learned that parental figures in one’s life that provide good discipline and love are essential to our growth and development; paving the way for our life’s journey. Role models provide us with our values. The Greek philosopher Socrates, in his exploration and questions of virtue, told us that virtue is being good and doing good.

Good role models teach virtuous behaviors…the difference between good and bad, truth and dishonesty, etc…not to take things that do not belong to us, to respect to others’ lives, not to cheat or lie, etc. As all behaviors are learned, beginning at a very young age, it is essential that parental figures begin teaching values to their children as toddlers…not wait until they go beyond the age of reason to learn on their own.

Teaching virtuous behavior, good values, to our children is not the responsibility of the schools or other organizations and agencies in our communities; but the responsibility of the parents or other care-takers in the child’s life. This prepares the child for adulthood in order that they make virtuous choices.

But virtuous behaviors do not appear by happenstance. Family teaches children to accept and develop virtuous behaviors; with proper discipline about good behaviors. All so frequently families tend to forget or disregard this. It is sad when children are often abused and neglected due to the choices that their significant adults make…the abuse of alcohol and other chemical substances, not obeying traffic signs, leaving children unattended, stealing, etc.

If the child learns that this is acceptable practice, then they may choose (and often do) to follow a path of these behaviors. When family members choose to drink ethanol beverage responsibly, giving good counsel and guidance to the child when they engage in bad behaviors, giving praise to the child who exhibits good behaviors, attending church services with their children, etc.; are instances of learning and development for the child…so they may learn to develop respect and love for their immediate and extended families and make choices consistent with virtuous behaviors.

Children, at a very young age, begin to emulate the behaviors of their significant adults; and they begin to develop cognitive skills related to what they have learned from their significant adults as well. They should learn to keep their intellect over their emotions in order to maintain their psychological balance.

As I have so often stated in my writings, family is the glue that holds the fabric of our society together. The emphasis on this can never be overstated. As the American author Richard Bach told us, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s lives.” Who are your families? Which significant person among your families have you chosen to emulate? Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!