Most of us see or talk to our families at least once a week. But how often does the chitchat include letting them know how much they mean to you?
That's the question we asked ourselves after seeing the heartfelt, bittersweet new movie Philomena, which tells the true story of Philomena Lee, a 78-year-old Irish woman (played by Judi Dench) who spends her entire adult life searching for the long lost son she was forced to give up when she was young and unmarried.
Read on for our list of the most important things that should never be left unsaid when it comes to family. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments.
"I love you"
Perhaps the most powerful words in the English language. Saying “I love you” lets your family member know she is not alone and that you care. The words also can help decrease fear in kids, and increase trust. As for the health benefits, simply holding someone’s hand relieves pain and makes you feel better, so if you find yourself tongue tied, give a hand squeeze to let your family member know how important she is to you.
Not only does saying ”Thank you” make your family member feel appreciated and acknowledged, researchers at the University of California Davis found that people who show gratitude feel better about their lives, are more optimistic and in better health than people who aren’t.
"I could use your help"
Asking for help isn't always easy—we don’t want to be seen as a burden or weak. However, asking for assistance from family members gives them the opportunity to do a kind act, and be a star. By showing vulnerability you can also help a relationship feel more equal and bring you closer together. The other hidden benefit of asking for help: Research shows that kids do better when they ask for help, rather than being shown immediately how to do something—so your asking for help models good behavior for them.
"I love to watch you play"
What is the best thing you can say to your grandchild who is an aspiring athlete? In their article “What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent and What Makes a Great One" former coaches Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC compiled decades of research from college students and found that the single best thing a parent (or grandparent!) can say is “I love watching you play.” In this culture of super-competitive sports and pressure to achieve, telling your grandchild how much you just enjoy him or her doing the sport they love is the best compliment you can give.
"I was wrong"
Accepting responsibility and owning up to our mistakes is one of the most important things we can do with family members. It is a way to mend relationships that are problematic. Apologizing can also help you feel better physically, according to research by Carol Osborn, Ph.D., author of 21 books about the boomer generation. Dr. Osborn studied 100 baby boomer women whom she considered to be well-adjusted role models for her book The Silver Pearl. She found that the main characteristic the women all shared was their knack for apologizing and straightening out problematic situations. Apologizing makes you feel better!
"I've never told you that..."
Sometimes it’s difficult for us to tell the people we care about most how much they mean to us. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by that prospect, just pick out one aspect of their personality and focus on that. Say, “I’ve never told you that I love the way you cook,” or “I’ve never told you that you have the best smile.” Giving a compliment makes the other person feel good about himself and appreciated. And when people feel appreciated, they are happier, which can boost health mentally and physically.
"You made my day!"
Perhaps the greatest gift we can give someone is to let him or her know how their actions affected us—how something they did made us happier, stronger, better. Letting them know they have made a difference is good for you and good for them.