Family Schemas: Being On Time

October 16, 2023 | Amanda Cramer

Families often create schemas or rules to establish expectations and procedures within their own unique dynamics. These schemas dictate the norms and values that each family holds dear. For example, some families prioritize eating dinner together at the table, while others may prefer to eat individually when schedules permit. Each family has its own interests and priorities – such as sports or the arts – that help to create a sense of membership and belonging. It’s important to recognize that these schemas help to make each family feel comfortable and secure in their own way, even if they may differ from what we are used to.

Adapting and adjusting when joining a family

Navigating family systems and rules can be a challenging experience, especially for new members who may be bringing their own unique perspectives and experiences to the table. It’s natural to sometimes intentionally adopt these rules, while other times, we may just continue to operate in ways that have been passed down from previous generations. Each family operates in its own unique way, and it’s okay to take time to adjust and learn the ropes.

A family rule in action

I have a heartwarming story to share with you. My beloved husband is a stickler for punctuality: He learned it from his family. In my family, things were a bit more relaxed when it came to punctuality. To make things easier for us, I started asking him what time he wanted me to be ready so we could leave on time according to his schedule. Once, we were headed to a charity concert and my husband asked me to be ready by 6 p.m. so we could arrive at 6:30 pm. We got there exactly on time and to our delight, we snagged a great parking spot. It turned out that the doors didn’t open until 7 p.m. and the show didn’t start until 8 p.m. Thankfully, our friends arrived soon after and we had a lovely time.

Exploring rules with intentionality

It’s important to have a conversation with your partner about the rules and norms of your family. Sometimes, we bring these learned behaviors into our adult relationships without even realizing it. It’s okay to acknowledge that there are different ways of doing things and to explore each other’s family traditions. By doing so, you can create a deeper understanding of each other and intentionally decide which values to bring into your own family.


Amanda Cramer, LICSW, MPH, is an integrative therapist at Omaha Integrative Care. She loves the beach and spending time with her husband, two kiddos, and two pups. 

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