Adjusting Our Sail for Family Success


“I can’t change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sail to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean

It seems like a lifetime ago when we set our 2020 goals and a lifetime of events has occurred in this short period of time. This year has been filled with grief and it has caused many of us to throw out the concept of reaching our destination. I think we can all agree there are many things we do not have the ability to control, but I submit there are just as many opportunities for us to make choices that can have an impact.

Personally, my mid-year goal is to NOT spend time complaining about what isn’t working or whether something is fair, but to spend more time figuring out how to adjust my sail to get my family closer toward our newly revised goals of growing closer as a family, having authentic communication, including discussing our emotions and clarity about our priorities.

There is no shortage of emotions right now, especially grief. Grief is the response to loss and this season has been full of loss. No need to pretend we are doing fantastic. Not everyone is comfortable showing emotions as they fear others can’t handle the intensity. Emotions are meant to be felt. Being sad doesn’t mean you won’t feel happy, feeling disappointed doesn’t mean someone is ungrateful nor does being angry mean you dislike everyone. Letting our children see emotions, naming them and talking about them is healthy, which can lead to learning tools to manage what life presents to us.

Life is messy, and when we don’t show up for someone like we wanted to, as Brené Brown says, “circle back.” There is power in being able to go back. For example, “Mom did not respond in the way I would have liked. I apologize. Can we talk about that again?” Kids don’t need to see perfection, nor do they need to see us beat ourselves up and say things like “I am such an idiot.” We all need to see more circle back and self-compassion moments, and less dehumanization of others.

Another big challenge in today’s family is the spaces we are occupying. We are working, living, going to school, resting and playing in the same spaces. We are having to adjust the sails so we can meet our individual goals, but our family goals may be suffering. Even if our house is comfortable in size, it seems we are confined to these places and it is impacting how we see each other, and who we are becoming. It can be stressful and emotions can get triggered. This is a great time for everyone to understand boundaries and their importance. Boundaries are those physical, emotional, material and mental limits we set to teach people how to treat us and to protect ourselves from others.

“No, you can’t borrow my laptop.”
“What you just said was unkind.”

“I will be taking a test, so please don’t interrupt me.”

These are all examples of setting boundaries.

Connect with your kids, whether they are 2 or 22. Ask them what was the best part of their day, hardest part of their day and is there any part they would like to do over? What were they most proud of, and how do they need support from us? Make this a daily ritual.

The activities we once did brought us together as a community, and what we are doing now as a family is making us stronger. Notice how older siblings are stepping up with their younger ones on computer issues, homework or general encouragement. Notice how you are finding and doing more of the important things, rather than completing all of the items on your list. Listen and celebrate how families are rallying around each other and finding creative ways to have fun. We can all help each other get to our destination.

We will get through this. I am not saying we won’t be banged, bruised and scarred, but we are resilient as humans and I believe most of us are going to come out of this with more clarity and compassion. We don’t need as much as we thought. We don’t have to be entertained 24/7. As parents, it’s about raising emotionally healthy human beings who care for one another and humanity.

Soon, I’ll see you again at the baseball field, skating rink, dance recital or school event, but until then, adjust your sail and take care of yourself and your humans.

Kimberley Malloy, LMFT, CIO Marriage & Family Therapist #01228, Chief Inspirational Officer