I recently read an article by Stephen R. Covey (www.stephencovey.com/blog/?tag=the-7-habits-of-highly-effective-families) about the stress on families during these difficult economic times. Losing your job is a blow – to your finances and your self esteem – which inevitably has an impact on your relationship with your spouse and your kids. Covey counsels people to remember the people who are most important in their lives and what matters to them most. He recommends three things:

1. Write a family mission statement to identify what kind of family you want to be. He suggests getting your family involved in this process. This will help your family have goals and work towards maintaining those goals.

2. Hold weekly family meetings – gather your family once a week to talk about issues, problems, or good things in your family. My family meets every Monday night for what is specifically family night at our house, and although my kids are only two, it makes a big difference in our home. We jokingly ask our two-year olds if they have any business they need to raise, but seriously it is a good opportunity for my husband and I to discuss the week’s schedule and any concerns we may need to raise.

3. Remember the emotional bank account – remember to make meaningful "deposits" into your relationships. Covey emphasizes by doing these things that you will take control of your situation rather than it taking control of you.

I would like to add a 4th suggestion – have fun with your family. You may think that you don’t have the finances to do the things that you used to do, but look for free or low-cost things to do, such as a picnic at the park or a day at the beach.

Living in tough economic circumstances doesn’t have to weaken your family relationships. Take the time to make sure you remember what’s important, and let your family members know that you know what’s important by how you treat them.