These eight optimizers clearly provide high leverage intervention for the nuclear family. But at the beginning of this chapter, we said we’d suggest ways you might apply them in other, nonnuclear situations. So if you’re looking outside the immediate family—if, for example, you’re single or a grandparent, or you don’t have children of your own—consider the following application ideas:
Create a personal mission statement, or generate or participate in creating an extended family mission statement. The objective is to create shared vision and values.
Initiate weekly or monthly extended family get-togethers, set up a family Web site, exchange letters, or schedule regular Internet chats with other members of the extended family. Or get involved in genealogy. Learn about your ancestors and the heritage you’ve received from them. The objective is to strengthen and reinforce the value of family.
Date a prospective mate. Consider your dates in light of the kind of family relationship you someday want to have. The purpose is to learn to nourish a long-term relationship.
Have “sneak-ins” and “sneak-outs” with nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. The objective is to nurture individual relationships in the family.
One tradition I’ve started that’s really enjoyable for me is taking our grandchildren on sneak-outs for their birthdays. It’s wonderful to have one-on-one time with them and get to know them better. Usually, our sneak-outs are shopping trips. I give them a certain amount of money and let them choose whatever they want, as long as I know their parents would approve. But this year, I gave our oldest grandchild the option of seeing a play instead. We had a great time together watching Peter Pan.
Though you may not have the same authority or responsibility as a parent, you can still let nieces, nephews, younger siblings, or others know you’re there to be a support and help to them. Take occasions to be a good listener, to respect confidences, and to offer encouragement and help. The objective is to provide additional adult support.
Enjoy your own daily wisdom time. Share inspiration with extended family members via phone, e-mail, “snail mail,” or in person. Generate interesting conversation or give family members a lift by sharing wisdom literature thoughts. The purpose is to celebrate and enjoy the nurturing value of wisdom.
Help create some organizational structure in the extended family. Get the family thinking about who could be in charge of a family reunion, who could be responsible for the food or arrange for the accommodations. Help set up ongoing responsibilities, such as organizing family Internet chats, sending out monthly family newsletters, or keeping everyone up to date on home addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. The objective is to encourage order, under- standing and responsibility in family relationships.
Inspire yourself and other family members by noticing and sharing acts of everyday heroism. Read and talk about past or modern-day heroes together. When you talk about family members, focus on the experiences that reflect how they exercised courage or compassion or went the extra mile. Help create heroes in the family. Call a cousin and volunteer to help out at the literacy center. Take your niece or nephew with you to visit residents of a local nursing home. The objective is to celebrate and reinforce positive character traits.
Once again, we remind you that no matter who you are, you’re part of a family, and there are things you can do to build and enjoy the principle of family in your life.