When we think of family, we may think of the traditional family – Mom, Dad and children who live, work and play together, however, family is a much broader concept. It may be family as a group of individuals who may or may not live together and may or may not be related, but who spend a lot of time together and meet specific family needs. What is important is that this family is a group of people who want to be together in a relationship that supports growth, happiness and wellness.
Families may have had difficult times working together. These patterns may have been established for a long time. Sometimes they are handed down, just like antiques, from generation to generation. Although old habits are often hard to break, it can be done as we “unlearn” them.
In order to successfully develop and use a Family WRAP, family members need to:
- Be willing to reach out and connect with each other
- Be mutually supportive to each other
- Be willing to provide other family members with additional support when they need it
- Trust each other, or work on increasing trust
- Be willing to take risks in sharing
- Address and respect boundary issues
- Be willing to work together when individual family members or the whole family is having a hard time.
- Be willing to work on close family relationships across ages, interests and genders
Recognize that everyone in the family, from the youngest to the oldest, those with various developmental and other issues, that everyone has feelings, dreams and goals that need to be respected by everyone in the family. Family members can include people of any age, shape, size, sex, sexual orientation and from any religious, cultural, ethnic, educational or economic background.
The following guidelines to successful family living are designed to give you additional ideas on how to work with Family WRAP and how to be together successfully as a family:
- Always treat family members nicely
- If someone (or several people) in your family report that they are being abuses, or have been abused in the past, listen and validate their feelings. If the abuse is ongoing, address it and make sure it STOPS.
- Avoid “nagging”. If you are in a parental role in the family, save your suggestions for others for the important things, like driving too fast and drug abuse. Nagging is not worth it.
- Family relationships must not include diagnosis, threats, coercion, blaming, shaming, name-calling, put-downs, teasing, sarcasm, taunting, ridicule or any kind of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
- Particular family members may act like “know-it-alls,” like they know everything and other family members don’t know anything. This attitude needs to change to an understanding that each family member is an expert on him- or herself.
- Sometimes certain people in the family want to be in charge of everything. Shared decision-making helps everyone in the family feel a “part of things” and leads to less conflict and more good times together.
- A particular family member may exhibit clingy or very needy behavior, which can be distressing to everyone in the family. Set up a Family WRAP so it can address this issue. Everyone in the family can encourage growth and independence.
- Don’t “badmouth” others.
- Judging family members should be avoided – This includes refraining from using judgmental statements.
- Avoid telling others information about people in the family that is private or should be confidential.
- Don’t compare people in the family with those outside the family. Accept each for the wonderful person they are.
- When difficult situations arise, work together at a family meeting to develop a plan for resolving issues.
- All family members need to work together to protect vulnerable members of the family, like young children, people with special needs or challenges and the elderly.
- Some members may be working toward independence and need the support of other family members to assist them in this process.
- There are times in every family when bad things happen. Things like fires, storms, illness, dying and death. Adapt your Family WRAP to best meet the needs of everyone in the family at this time.
- If a family member is going through a difficult time, it can be stressful for everyone and easy to react in a frustrated way. This is a good time to step back and take a more “trauma-informed” approach. This means asking them “what’s wrong?” and “what can we do to help you?” and letting them know how much they are loved.
- Plan lots and lots of time for fun.
- Listen, listen, listen
Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, developed Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with a group of people with lived experience who were attending a mental health recovery workshop in 1997. She is the original author of the WRAP Red Book, as well as dozens of other WRAP books and materials. She has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to learning from people who have mental health issues; discovering the simple, safe, non-invasive ways they get well, stay well, and move forward in their lives; and then sharing what she has learned with others through keynote addresses, trainings, and the development of books, curriculums, and other resources. Now that she is retired, and that, as she intended, others are continuing to share what she has learned, she continues to learn from those who have mental health issues and those who support them. She is a frequent contributor to this site.