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100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families
By Niven, David
Be a Good Friend
Looked at from a distance, a family is infinitely complex. But looked at from the most basic level, a family is a series of personal relationships, and those relationships are like any other close, important relationship in your life. Treat your family members as you would treat a friend -- as if you have chosen to be in their company and wish them to choose to be in yours -- and you will have taken the most important, most fundamental step toward having a rewarding family life.
Looking back fifteen years ago, Briana remembers what it was like to not quite fit in. "I was brainy, and I didn't get in trouble," Briana says of her early teen years. "There were a lot of kids around me who didn't understand that, didn't respect that. I refused to do the things that might gain me more acceptance, but I was crushed by the feeling of being left out."
But Briana's mother was there to offer comfort and support. "I thought I would never survive those years, but my mother wisely made our home a sanctuary where I could talk about my troubles. She always listened carefully, no matter how trivial or monumental my worries. Her faith in me helped me gain confidence in my abilities today. I walk to my own beat with pride because of her."
Briana says what her mother offered mostly was friendship. "She's the ultimate friend. She's there for me. She's on my side. She let me be me, and embraced me for it."
While making other friends was easier after her middleschool trials, Briana never forgot the lesson in friendship from her mother. "My mom has made the world a better place for many people. I only hope to do the same in time."
Researchers studying those who enjoyed close family relationships and close friendships find that the key factors to both are the same, including a strong desire to be in the company of others and to value them. Moreover, they find that people can increase their receptivity to close relationships if they want to.
Pike and Atzaba-Poria 2003
Excerpted from 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families by Niven, David Excerpted by permission.
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