Promoting family unity

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Rick Allen
  • 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron commander
Ahhh, finally, the joys of summer are upon us. The warm days bring cookouts, baseball, afternoons at the pool, and for many of us, the endless barrage of moving trucks in the neighborhood. Even though we are staying put this summer, there have been plenty of goodbye tears in our house in recent days. How do we, as a military family, promote family unity in the midst of such frequent transition?

In order to develop a cohesive family, and insulate somewhat against instability, it's important to ponder or create a common family purpose. Ask yourself these questions: What is important to us as a family? And, in the midst of a military environment, how can we best promote each family member's strengths and talents? Why does Mom or Dad serve? Why is his/her job important to the U.S. and the world? How does our family team contribute to that end? And probably most important, why must military families move? Being a member of a military family is unique and sometimes tough, so talking together about the special opportunities and challenges we face helps to develop unity. We work to help our family understand the big picture and teach them to look at every change as an adventure.

The best ways to build and strengthen relationships should take place long before a move is eminent. Family dinners are often overlooked as an effective way to do this. It requires effort on the part of each family member to be present, but the outcomes are invaluable. Just talking about each others' daily victories and struggles can be cathartic and even can help the other members understand the challenges each is facing. Simply put, this leads to insight into each others' lives. Military inspections, tests and projects at school all are topics at our dinner table.

Another idea for promoting family unity is family fun days - or as we like to call them- FFF (which stands for Forced Family Fun). These may start out as "forced," but by the end of the day, the smiles and laughter usually take over. Common memories of times together can be bonding, even as siblings are grown. A camping trip, concert, trip to the park or visit to the ice cream store all build fun memories.

Helping to reinforce a sense of belonging to a family team, of which each member is irreplaceable, is key to successful moves. Moves can become an adventure, and if the ties that bind a family are strong and healthy, the ties with friends that must be severed are more easily recoverable. Military families make huge sacrifices along with the active-duty member. And just like any successful team, all members are asked to sacrifice a little of themselves to be victorious as a team. After all, it is our mission as an Air Force family to protect all American families.