By Rae Sedgwick. Ph.D., J.D.
Clinical and Consulting Psychologist
Attorney at Law
Healthy families and individuals need to be in relationships. To be connected to a greater whole is essential for survival and sustainable growth physically, spiritually and mentally.
A young woman remarked to me recently that what she needed was to be “seen, heard and understood.” A small ask, really. You might wonder, “How in today’s world does one make that happen?” It requires that we live with intention, with purpose and direction. It means being in the presence of those with whom we want to be in a relationship.
As a clinician, I urge people to have lunch or dinner together. Most families are lucky to get one meal a week together. I suggest limiting the amount of time on social media and show how this is vital to developing relationships. I advise parents to turn off phones during meals or family discussions and limit social media exposure for children under 12.
A healthy family needs intentional behaviors. Other recommendations include asking partners and parents to spend 15 minutes a day “checking in“ with one another in the morning, at bedtime, or over lunch. Taking time to be together at least once a week during meals also adds to the relationship. I provide a list of strategies for “fair fighting,” a means of resolving controversy, which is a natural component of day-to-day life. Such strategies require setting aside 45 minutes a week to discuss areas of disagreement or misunderstanding. This time also includes putting away phones. Those who manage the 45-minute meeting each week find it surprisingly helpful.
Incorporate small, meaningful changes
A five-minute embrace; a shared meal; a prayer at bedtime to see, to hear, to seek to understand.
My mother used to say each day: “Lift someone up today; bring me home a story.” Let your story unfold with intent and purpose for those you love and for those whose faces you may never see and names you may never hear. As author Anne Lamott says: “I have value. As do you, my friend.” •
Dr. Rae Sedgwick is a published author, nurse, clinical psychologist and attorney in private practice. Sedgwick is a graduate of the Postdoctoral Training Program in Clinical Psychology of the Menninger Clinic.