Some families have trouble arriving at comfortable settings for their heating and air conditioning. One member may feel that the temperature is too hot while another finds it too cool. No matter what the technician who checks and repairs the unit says about the proper setting, somebody may be dissatisfied.

Over the more than 60 years of listening to families in my counseling office, I’ve learned that couples and families also have emotional thermostats. You don’t have to be a professional to pick up on the vibrations when someone is giving another person “the cold shoulder.” Sometimes there is a topic that is “too hot” to discuss at the dinner table. Emotions can run both hot and cold.

Usually around this time of the year we began to feel changes in the weather. Mother Nature’s thermostat makes adjustments and we don’t have too much control over that, but what can we do about the emotional thermostats in our homes?

Here are some ideas to consider when you evaluate your family’s thermostat:

First, change is not always something to be resisted. As the seasons change we come to appreciate the cooler breezes of fall. There’s a certain crispness about the winter air, especially when observing the beauty of the first gentle snowfall. Before too long we are happy for the blooming of the flowers and even the heat of the summer.

It may not be so pleasant when we encounter changes in the climate at home. Families are at times like trees. The sap rises and the tree grows. Other times there are periods of dormancy and quietness. The family can occasionally handle periods of depression or contemplation. When we feel forced to acclimate ourselves to others in the family, we may react with a feeling of being threatened and a sense of rebelliousness.

Second, families may allow the most flexibility for individual growth and personality development. Sometimes we may feel that a family member has started a fire in the middle of the room, but when we learn to accept each other in our various phases of growth, the blaze may be controlled and used to warm the relationship. Your family can tolerate more unpredictable changes than most other relationships because they love you.

Finally, it’s a good plan to allow time for the members of your family to adjust their personal thermostat before requiring that the whole family adjust. Sometimes even positive things can be disruptive. When I gain a new insight that may have taken me a while to learn, I may think that others close to me should understand the concept immediately because I have told them! Give those around you a similar amount of time to accept your new understanding as it took you to gain it. A change in the thermostat may require a little time to correct the overall home temperature.

When you are patient with the changes in your partner or family member, you may be giving them the best you have to offer: your acceptance and love.

Dr. James E. Kilgore retired as the president of the International Family Foundation Inc. and is a Canton resident.

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