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Sanctuary in the Home: Open Communication, Growth and Change

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sanctuary-pieThis is the fifth and final post in a series on implementing the Sanctuary Model in the home.


By Denise Morganthall


Our basic needs for survival are water, food and the air that we breathe. But communication is a basic need for survival in a family.

Families that promote communication talk openly and often and express themselves clearly. They share their hopes, dreams, fears, joys, sorrows, experiences and needs. They take the time to talk and to listen, allowing them to understand other family members’ feelings too. Communication is more than just the exchange of words between family members but also encompasses facial expressions, body language, tone and posture.


When we fail to communicate, it can create chaos in the home and be detrimental to a family’s happiness. A lack of communication can cause a child to develop aggressive behaviors, as a cry for attention. It can also lead to a lack of self confidence and motivation and contribute to what many call the “generation gap.”


It is important not just to talk with each other, but to communicate in a way that all people feel safe from criticism regarding their emotions. Open communication involves speaking not shouting, addressing conflict directly and speaking kindly. In short it is saying what you mean and not being mean when you say it. Here are some questions to ask yourself to ensure you are communicating in a manner consistent with Sanctuary:

  1. Am I communicating in a way that is not verbally or emotionally violent?
  2. Am I speaking honestly, but kindly?
  3. Am I truly listening, or is my mind somewhere else?
  4. Am I communicating regularly?
  5. Am I admitting my mistakes and apologizing when I need to?

Actions often speak louder than words. Smiles, hugs and just being there for your child are all part of communication. Helping a child study for a test shows you care. Spending time together doing fun activities builds strong family ties. Many families find that family meetings can improve communication because they give each family member a chance to express opinions and ideas and offer compliments or complaints.


Life brings about constant change, and families are always growing and changing along the way. Children get older and move on; adults switch jobs or retire; families move to different communities; relationships are reshaped by birth, marriage, divorce, sickness or death. Family relationships are most likely to remain healthy and strong if family members adapt to these changes and support each other through them.


A family cannot grow as a whole unless each family member has the desire to grow. Change is inevitable, but growth is optional and must come from within. It takes time, energy and motivation. It all begins with having the right attitude. When you can put a positive spin on a negative event, it helps you to realize we can all grow if we want it badly enough. But growth is not always easy. We make mistakes, get stuck and fall back on old habits. But learning from our mistakes, and letting our children learn from theirs, is how we grow.

Denise has been in the mental health profession for 15 years. She is a mother of 4 and an advocate of Sanctuary. She is a Sanctuary representative for KidsPeace and a member of the Sanctuary Institute. Denise is also a life coach and is pursuing a career in freelance writing.

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