“Good night, John Boy!” – What is Family?

Do you remember the television show “The Waltons”? I know it’s a rather old show, which launched in 1972. It was one of the few TV shows I was allowed to watch as a child. I loved the family support the characters extended to each other and it really touched my heart how each episode ended. You saw their house in the dark, the Walton family with their seven kids and two grandparents went to bed, one light after the next was turned off, and they all said “Good night” to each other. “Good night, Mama,” “Good night, Daddy,” Good night, children!” “Good night, John Boy!”

Over the last six weeks, I have been contemplating the question of what “family” really means. What constitutes family and how do families cope with things?

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There is, of course, the ideal of the “picture book perfect family,” like the Waltons. We probably all carry that family archetype around in our mind. But let’s get real. It is 2017, not the 1930’s, and the reality is that there are more and more blended families. We are faced with more complicated family dynamics, other challenges, and different conflicts than the Waltons would have ever dreamed of. In today’s world, family set-ups change constantly. Separations and divorces occur and new unions, for example second or third marriages, are formed. Custody arrangements change, or children get older and move out. With each stage in life, energetic dynamics are transformed. Families even change temporarily, as we have experienced this summer.

For the last six weeks, my 16-year-old daughter has been living and working in Quebec. Meanwhile, we had a 17-year-old exchange student from Quebec staying with us. Just like our daughter in Quebec, he had to adapt to a completely new environment, a different language, his summer job in English, and many new impressions and events each day. They both impressed us tremendously with their openness and courage.

We also had to adapt as a family and understand cultural differences and differences in communication styles. Within the first weekend, our “exchange son” had captured both our hearts with his awareness and sensitivity. A bass guitar major for the last six years, he brought music into our house and many interesting conversations. He wanted to get to know both of us and made the effort to connect right from the start. Very observant and mature in his communication skills—despite the language challenges—we felt from the first moment on that we “lucked out” with this amazing summer guest.

Sounds like the “honeymoon”? It was. Ten days into his stay, the first challenges naturally arose which we had to work through together. Just as in a blended family, there were different values, other rituals and new ways of doing things. From home, he was used to coming and going spontaneously, unaware that over here in his host family, everybody else had adjusted their schedule to his to spend some quality time together. He was not used to communicating when plans that he had made were changing, or accustomed to keeping each other informed by text. The curfew put in place by the exchange program was initially looked upon by him and other French students as a suggestion, and the concept that parents might worry until the young people are back home safely did not occur to the students.

Having grown up in an all-girls household and having only parented girls, I was expecting that familiar communication of sharing your experiences and feelings, and expressing appreciation for each other on a daily basis. I read one syllable answers to questions and his lack of planning as a lack of consideration and lack of appreciation. He read our questions, responses to his behaviour and different rules as overprotection and judgement. The more he felt “not good enough” and “wrong,” the less he wanted to communicate. When we feel blamed, we sometimes just want to run and avoid an unpleasant talk. That is a human response. It took a change in approach—a “tough love” tone—for him to wake up.

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We are so extremely proud of this young man for taking responsibility for his side of the misunderstandings and for being open to hear our explanations and apologies where we had made him feel judged as “wrong”. After this talk, we gained a tremendous understanding for each other. Our communication improved greatly, and we were able to see each other’s dissimilarity as just different instead of wrong or rude. We were able to focus on the similarities and the efforts made by everybody and express more appreciation towards each other.

Now, almost at the end of his stay, we are truly sad to see him go. There is no question in our minds and hearts that we will stay in touch with him, just as my daughter will continue the connection with her loving and truly amazing host family.

This exchange experience had me contemplating the question, “What is family”? What is it that the Waltons have that can be still found—or be missing—today in our modern families?

For me, it boils down to the wisdom that as a family you are stronger. What is good for one member of the family is good for all. You don’t give up on each other, but you talk through challenges and you grow from sharing your feelings and thoughts. You learn about the feelings, experiences and triggers the other family members have. From that place of greater understanding, you take responsibility for your part in a regretful interaction and create compromises together. Or, as a friend of mine said a few weeks ago when we spoke about issues with her step-son, “Shit happens in families, but as a family you work through this shit together!”

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Unfortunately, in her case, the mother of my friend’s teenage step-son is sheltering him from having to take responsibility for a big screw-up. She is depriving the father and his family from having the opportunity to work through things together as a family unit. Instead of trusting her son that he is old enough at 17 to work through a conflict to which he contributed, she is doing him a disservice by letting him hide behind her apron. Wanting to be the more beloved parent can leave us very short-sighted in terms of what beliefs and coping strategies we teach our children.

A family unit can only function if our feelings and needs are not swept under the carpet but rather are processed. Without the willingness to be vulnerable and discover what is going on underneath the feelings of irritation or anger we might be experiencing, we can’t move out of a stuck state. By not working through things as a family, we are making a choice to carry anger, resentment and blame with us. Sometimes it is the parent generation who is not willing to communicate openly and honestly, at other times it’s the young generation feeling unable to express themselves. Often the unsuccessful communication goes both ways. However, only when we take responsibility for our feelings, words and actions, can we grow as individuals as well as families.

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Angelika, Belief Change & Relationship Coach



One way of working on your relationships is the Relationship Energetics Workshop coming up this fall.  For more course information please click here.

Walk a Mile in My Moccasins

Carol has been married for over seven years; she is the mother of two little girls. But each time she used to see her own mother, she instantly felt like a little child again.

By that, she didn’t mean she had a wonderful fuzzy feeling of safety, security and love. On the contrary! She felt like her own two year old who wanted to stamp her foot and yell at her mother “I hate you!”

Carol was triggered by her mother in different ways. For example, Carol and her husband made the choice to be vegetarians, yet, the mother kept pushing meat onto her daughter and her grandchildren. She was telling everybody how unhealthy it is to be vegetarian and how irresponsible it is to raise your children this way.

Carol’s husband is French-Canadian and they had decided to send their older daughter to a French school. Carol’s mother was doing everything to find fault with this choice as well.

Carol felt herself triggered into angry comments directed at her mother, which then resulted in her mother being hurt and insulted, calling her daughter cruel and heartless. Carol tried to ignore her mother, tried to explain and rationalize with her. Nothing helped. “She just will not stop!” Carol told me in exasperation.

Carol felt disrespected, criticized and angry. Her own children had been asking to see their grandparents more, but Carol always had excuses to call other babysitters and felt more comfortable avoiding family get-togethers. One day, when Carol had a fight with her husband, he exclaimed in frustration “You are just like your mother!” Carol was offended and shocked. She came to see me.

As Carol and I started working together, Carol discovered—to her surprise—her mother’s desperation for attention and love. She realized that her mother felt scared and out of control through the different life choices Carol and her husband had made for themselves and their children.

Carol has found a way to set clear respectful boundaries with her mother while giving her the love and assurance the mother was looking for. In order to do that, Carol had to work with the mirrors which showed up for her and integrate her own shadows inside herself. She had to embrace the energy of being loud and pushy, and the part in her which is controlling. Her mother mirrored neediness to Carol as well. All three were traits Carol had learned to dislike and had disowned in herself. She judged herself harshly for her own controlling energy and when she herself felt needy and fearful. Carol also chose to do a relationship alignment with somebody standing in for her mother. That’s a process which balances the chakras in relationship to each other, and can greatly shift the energy from judgments to acceptance.

When Carol healed her own wounds and cleared out her triggers, she became really able to step into her mother’s shoes and feel her mother’s experience with compassion.

Moccasins & quoteWhen we walk a mile in somebody else’s moccasins, we realize that nothing is what it seems. Our shoe might pinch in one spot, somebody else’s shoe in another.

Ever since Carol has removed her own triggers and has been able to feel and radiate true unconditional love towards her mother, her mother has also slowly started to put herself into Carol’s place. The mother has realized that her daughter’s choices in life are not right or wrong, they are not a threat to her own beliefs or a criticism of how she raised Carol; they are just different from hers.

“The other day, I heard her defend our French school to somebody! Can you believe that?” laughs Carol. Yes, I can! Carol has done the work and is seeing the results.

Is it time to move beyond right and wrong for you as well? Do you want to have more peaceful and harmonic experiences with others? Are you ready to create better relationships? By finding the parts of your personality that you have pushed away, recognizing their value and then embracing them, you are opening up to unconditionally loving yourself and enhancing your relationships. You gain the freedom to truly walk in another person’s moccasins.



Relationship Coaching




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