Family is Everything – 6 Tips for Listening Deeply

 A Family is like a forest, when you are outside it is dense, but when you are inside, you see that each tree has its place.  – Yoruba People 

Today, right now, all families face challenges that can and do put terrific strains on establishing and maintaining harmony and peace. These circumstances press into, and lean on, and sometimes snap that family tie.  Challenges range from food insecurity, arguments, disrespect, sibling rivalry, inappropriate associates, joblessness, homelessness, and even violence.  One of the biggest reasons for conflict in families is miscommunication.

Peace Learning Center’s Connect and Communicate family program works with families to improve what is good in their communication.  A multitude of topics are covered such as: Understanding the 12 Blocks to Listening; Effective Listening; Listening with Empathy, Openness and Awareness; Conflict Resolution; and Peaceful Living.

We all want to be heard, so here are six tips on letting someone know you are hearing them:

  1. Maintain good eye contact.
  2. Lean slightly forward.
  3. Reinforce the speaker by nodding or paraphrasing.
  4. Clarify by asking questions.
  5. Actively move away from distractions.
  6. Be committed, even if you’re angry or upset, to understanding what is being said.

Last Saturday, at one of our Family Workshops in Eagle Creek Park, participants (ranging in age from 7 to 72) were asked, “When you hear the word family, what word comes to your mind?”   Here are some of their responses: brothers-sisters, support, love, caring, family dinners, survival, strength, values, integrity, and patience.  Clearly, family means something different to everyone.

The modern American family looks nothing like the traditional families that black and white TV upheld in the 50’s and 60’s – the idealized image of mothers as homemakers tending to the needs of her flock with never a lock of hair out of place. It seemed as if everything was wonderful and perfect then. All conflicts could be settled when Dad came home and all were smiling and settled around the dinner table.

Of course there are still families who carry on these traditions – family dinners – at least three or four times a week.  And then there are families who eat dinner with trays on their laps – watching television or a movie.  Some families only sit around a shared table during the holidays – especially Thanksgiving.  And then some families do not eat together at all.  What qualifies a unit to be called family?

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court held that marriage equality is the law of the land.  Another definition of family has come into play.  What about blended families? Or, families with blood ties only? Families consisting of adopted children – especially children who are not of the same ethnicity as their adopted parents – what about them?  Transgender parents are now becoming more visible in our country.  Again, what qualifies a unit to be called family?

Whether people group themselves into units labeled families based on marriage, nuclear and extended households, common ancestry, clan, affiliation, or fellowship –they have a glue that binds them together based on Love. And, helping families understand how to grow and nurture that love is what Peace Learning Center’s Family Programs do best.

For more information on how you, your family, or organization can participate in PLC’s Family Programs, contact: Naeemah Jackson by phone at 317-327-7144 or by email at