My husband & I are proud parents of eight children. Seven are married with children of their own. We are also blessed with two great- grandchildren. Our immediate family now numbers 41 and our extended family numbers 44 since two relatives & a friend join our celebrations.

 There are many types of family groups. Our particular family structure might seem overwhelming to some people. We, however, enjoy every moment of our family life in spite of the trials and tribulations connected with raising children, providing for their individual needs and finding time to nurture our relationship as a couple.

 Jack and I see our lives as an adventure. Having a large family has been a rewarding part of our journey. Our numerous parenting experiences have enriched our lives and helped to shape our perspective with regard to managing stress and feeling helpless.

 Over the years, we have found that these fsix principles and practices help us enjoy our family connections and support each other.

 1.  CELEBRATE.  Take time to celebrate life’s milestones and successes. We celebrate birthdays, religious occasions, graduations, first jobs, promotions, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, births, and academic and athletic achievements. I can’t think of anything we don’t try to acknowledge.  This month, we will get together and celebrate six graduations (graduate school, college, high school and middle school) and 15 birthdays. Due to our large number of family members and their conflicting schedules, we now have quarterly celebrations. Often, there are smaller spontaneous gatherings as well. This seems to work best for us.

2.  SUPPORT.  This is as important as celebrating. Recently one family lost their beloved dog. It was a sad time for them. It gave the rest of our family an opportunity to express our love, concern and recognize their sadness and pain. Families thrive with unconditional support.

3.  BE INCLUSIVE.  Being inclusive is a life long challenge. Our family is continually assimilating new members and adjusting to the changing dynamic. The new member and his or her family become a branch of our larger family tree.  New family members bring energy and help broaden our perspectives. The challenge is to gracefully embrace everyone, accept our differences and grow from the experiences.

4.  CREATE YOUR OWN TRADITIONS.  In our family, when it’s your birthday, we bring out the Birthday Hat. The Birthday Hat is made of plush fabric and shaped like a birthday cake with candles. We sing to each person celebrating his or her big day. If you are seven or 70, you wear the birthday hat. Traditions are a fun way for family members to bond and to feel anchored to each other.

 5.  GIVE BACK. When you give, you get. We have always volunteered and been involved in the community and we have encouraged our children to do the same. By giving our time, talents, and resources, no matter how limited the contribution may be, it makes a difference to both the giver and the recipient. It is humbling to see people who are dealing with situations much more difficult than your own. Perspective can do so much to alleviate stress. We encourage and support our children and grandchildren in their efforts to volunteer in the community.

 6.  ASK FOR HELP, WORK TOGETHER AND BE FLEXIBLE. In a large family, things can’t get done unless we work together. The thought of cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for 44 (plus) people could be daunting if I took on the task myself. However, when Thanksgiving becomes a joint effort and everyone brings a dish, it’s manageable and gives others a chance to showcase their culinary skills.  When Jack and I involve our family in planning and are flexible in our approach, we often get fresh ideas and perspectives from the collaboration.

 How I will celebrate My Mental Health Day, May 26: I will celebrate granddaughter Shannon’ s high school graduation. It will be special time for my family. I hope you will take the time to celebrate My Mental Health Day too in whatever ever way brings you joy.

My Mental Health Day thanks:
Eileen Dillon, Mental Helath Association Board Member


  1. Debra Dillon says:

    Wonderful principles to guide family life. I’m very fortunate that Eileen is my mother-in-law.

  2. Nancy Rojas-Fairly says:

    What a great article. Thank you Eileen for sharing such great advise. I’m so happy that my daughter Anna is part of your family.

  3. Dani white says:

    You go Grandmom!!!!so glad to have you as my Grandmom!! You couldn’t be any better!! Great advice!! Love you!

  4. Dani White says:

    you go grandmom!!!! couldnt ask for a better grandmom! keep writting love you!!!

  5. Eve Brooks says:

    Dear Eileen and Jack,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog today.
    I can say that you both “live by your words that are stated in this blog”. Since I am your neighbor I can honestly say that you set excellent goals and live them out daily. The suggestions that you give in the blog are excellent and worth striving for in everyday life.
    I plan to spend “My Mental Health Day” driving down to Emerald Isle with my son Eric and his wife Kathleen to Emerald Isle (11 in all) to celebrate our annual family gathering. Eve Brooks

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