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It is that time of the year when families convene to celebrate the festive season. This is the season of togetherness even for families without a history of meeting. Gardy Chacha takes us through important topics families should tackle during this time
It shouldn’t shock you if, for the first time, you will be introduced to cousins, aunties and uncles. You will wonder to yourself, ‘where have all these people been?’
The point is, if there is one time that families foster togetherness it is during the month of December.
Sometimes (most times for some of us) when the festivities force us into meeting with family — some who may have faded into distant memory — and nothing more than single-word responses forms the bulk of our conversations, it becomes an awkward time.
This is how fun times turn into mum times. There is only one way to get rid of silent family reunions — by cranking up conversations. Talk to each other about anything and everything.
What conversations, one may ask? To start with, it cannot be anything out of this world.
The following are conversations that will come across as relevant, interesting and necessary to have.
1. Family tree, DNA lines and the extent of relationships:
The world has become a global village and it is bound to become even smaller. Globalisation has made it easy for humans to interact. Hence when siblings and cousins set forth to conquer the world, a lot happens. Life spawns new relationships. Marriages and breakups take place. Children are born close to home and far from home. A pool of individuals related by blood forms.
Geneticists will tell you it would be important for families to get familiar with each other. There is always the chance and possibility that cousins or siblings may in future meet in distance places, fall in love and start a family. Children born out of such close genetic relations,
Dr Elly Odongo, a gynaecologist, says, have a high probability of being born with a myriad congenital conditions. So, this festive season, as family members convene from all over the world, it would be a worthwhile conversation to ask each other who is who and how deep bloodlines run. You may just discover a cousin or a half-brother you would have fallen in love with given the chance.
2. Investing together:
Around the world, siblings and cousins have gone into business and have been successful. Why pass such a chance; especially if everyone coming to the table has unique skills that will prop up the business. However, unlike social interactions, business will require greater discipline. The decisions made ought to be devoid of social feelings and commitments.
If you want to talk about investing together, it may be important to prepare a few notes. Write down the idea, an estimation of capital investment, ratio of contributions, roles for each partner and so on. Investment is a deep conversation that may last several days. There would be a lot to tackle.
For instance, area of operation, factors in favour and against the business, profits and overheads, shares and process of registering the business, to mention a few. Investing (or not) with family is a worthwhile conversation to have. It does not guarantee that the idea will ever take off but if it does, it may foster even closer ties.
3. Life and its challenges:
Psychologist Wandia Maina says a problem shared is a problem half solved. “Every one of us goes through tribulations,” Wandia says. “Challenges are not unique to any particular group of people.” She adds: facing the problem alone is carrying a heavy load alone.
But while letting other people in on it, it is advisable it cannot be just anyone. Problems are best shared with close family and friends, adds Catherine Mbau, a counsellor and a psychologist at Ridgeways in Nairobi. Hence, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk about the challenges you are facing — from financial, to health, to academic or relationships.
Families, in many cases, are safe spaces to be open and candid. Sharing the burdens our hearts may actually yield to a positive response — when family helps you find a solution. That may not be the result but all the same the burden won’t feel as big as it felt before talking about it.
4. Address past grievances:
Some families are close knit. Some are strangers among themselves. The dynamics of relationships inside the domestic tinderbox are fluid. Ever had the phrase ‘we all come from broken families’? It is because sometimes strains occur and families are broken along different lines. Brothers may not be seeing eye-to-eye because their mother might have always favoured one sibling over the other. Or, a mistake committed against a sibling in childhood has festered into adulthood. These differences are more common than you thought. And because of these differences, you will see siblings barely shaking hands after three years apart.
According to Family and marriage specialist Amos Alumada of Pan African University, sibling rivalry is as old as the days of Cain and Abel.
“Ideally when siblings disagree and fight, parents — or the adult in the family — should step in and bridge their differences with wise counsel,” Amos says. But how often does that happen? Almost never. An almost inconsequential spat more often than not morphs into an ugly competition that pits siblings against each other. When such differences are not solved they get passed on to children and cousins too become strangers from circumstances of their parents’ own doing.
5. Set a common agenda going forth:
Hopefully, all the differences will have been solved by the time it is New Year’s Eve. All that awkwardness of having to say good morning to your ‘enemy’ in the family will have dissipated into a forgotten abyss. The next course of action, naturally, would be to forge a common path going forward.
Picture a future where you are no longer strangers with each other: a future with closer ties and phone calls won’t feel awkward. A future where only physical distance separate you but not the confluence of ideas, mutual love and respect. This would mean forgiving each other and agreeing on rules of engagement to avoid more mishaps. After all, no one chooses which family they are born into.
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