Maintaining Family Relationships


All family relationships need constant maintenance

When Arizona caseworker Heather Shew-Plummer met Steven and Roger Ham, she knew they would be ideal adoptive parents.4 They were “patient, loving, fun and ceaseless advocates for kids.” Shew-Plummer helped the Hams adopt a young Hispanic boy, Michael. But Michael worried about his four younger siblings, who were still in foster care. “These kids obviously loved one another,” Steven says. “I knew they had to be together, and I was going to make that happen.” Eventually, the couple adopted all of Michael’s siblings and worked to reassure the children about the family’s stability by telling them, “This [family] is forever.” Seeing their success, caseworkers began placing children of all ethnicities, ages, and abilities with the Hams. They now have twelve.

Critical to their family success is the positive atmosphere Steven and Roger create. “They are really supportive of anything I do,” says their daughter Vanessa, and their constant encouragement traverses many varied activities: basketball, karate, ROTC, and cheerleading. The Hams also emphasize open, honest communication. Some of their kids are old enough to remember their troubled previous lives, and the Hams discuss their pasts forthrightly, helping the children to grieve and move forward. “Children should be able to come to you about anything,” Steven says. But more than anything else, the Ham family focuses on love. “A loving home is a loving home,” Roger says. “Our kids have two parents who love them; not all of their friends do.”

The story of the Ham family reminds us of a simple truth: we create our families through how we communicate. Although you’re only one member of your family, the interpersonal choices you make—and what you say and do as a result—ripple outward. To help boost your family’s closeness and happiness, use your interpersonal communication skills to maintain your family relationships and work carefully to balance ongoing family tensions.