Sharing your life with a happy healthy family is for many of us, one of our most important goals. It is no secret that dysfunctional relationships and a chaotic family life are major contributors to social problems including juvenile delinquency, domestic abuse, and addiction. However, there are multitudes of successful families who thrive, contribute to their communities, and nurture future generations to do the same! Researchers have studied carefully the attributes found within successful, happy families, and believe the following six characteristics to be vital foundational principles for fostering strong family relationships.
- Spend time together- Relationships are somewhat like a garden. Without proper care and attention the weeds take over. Find activities each person enjoys and participate enthusiastically. If you cannot actually engage in the activity be sure to support one another’s interests through attention and encouragement.
- Effective Communication- Emphasize that each person’s ideas are valid and everyone should have the chance to share happy news as well as what’s bothering them. Being a good listener is essential in the communication process. Listening displays respect. It shows family members you care about what concerns them.
- Appreciation- Every day family members contribute in ways that are worthy of appreciation. It is important to be aware of their efforts and express your gratitude with meaningful words and gestures. This can be done simply by saying, “Thank you for doing the dishes,” or perhaps leaving a quick note where they can find it. It is also important to appreciate others not only for what they do, but also for who they are! This helps to increase the recipient’s self-esteem and deepens a caring bond between family members.
- Commitment- ‘Putting family first’ means that everyone takes time to consider how their decisions will affect the other members of the family. They are concerned about one another’s welfare and happiness, and seek to structure their lifestyle in ways that promote unity and harmony.
- Good coping skills- Members of strong families demonstrate the ability to stand firmly together during a crisis. By utilizing effective communication skills and maintaining a positive out look, families can deal with difficult times and find strength that will sustain them through any crisis.
- Values and convictions- Identifying and practicing a set of deeply held values and moral standards is an essential component of strong families. Some families demonstrate these beliefs through participation in organized religion while others involve themselves in worthy causes. Parents can express values by having open discussions about cultural trends, reading books to children which contain moral messages, or making a written document that states, “This family believes...” and posting it where everyone can see it. The most effective method, however, is allowing your children to observe you practicing your ethical convictions. Children may not hear everything we say, but they see everything we do!