The Family Journey
Characteristics of Strong Families
The family is the basic social unit of society. It is in the
family that we first learn to play, to share, to help and to love. Some families
effectively prepare family members to be strong, contributing members of
society; others do not.
All families have challenges and weaknesses. But some families
use key strengths to grow and prosper. What makes some families effective and
others ineffective? Years of research have found that strong families cultivate
First, strong families have commitment. The membership of each
family member is recognized and valued. Family members are committed to help
each other succeed and there is an attitude of "one for all, and all for
one." In short, there is allegiance to the family and family life is a
Second, strong families express appreciation. Appreciation is
one of the deepest human needs. We all want our efforts recognized and
appreciated. Strong families make a habit of expressing gratitude. They look for
the good in one another and openly acknowledge it when it is found. They
celebrate their successes. In strong families, communication is positive and
compliments are common.
Third, strong families spend time together. Although quality
time is important, so is quantity time. Strong families do things together and
do them often. They enjoy the time they spend with their families . They eat
together, play together, and work together. Frequently they choose family
activities over other non-family activities. This abundance of time together
helps them develop an abundance of shared experiences and memories that unite
and strengthen them.
Fourth, strong families develop spiritually. For many families,
their faith community becomes a second family that provides extra support. A
spiritual connection can also provide purpose, direction, and perspective. As
the old adage says, "the family that prays together stays together."
Fifth, strong families deal effectively with conflict, stress,
and crisis. All families experience conflict, but strong families attack the
problem, not each other. They manage conflict in ways that are respectful of the
unique perspective that each family member brings to a problem. Furthermore,
strong families manage their resources wisely and plan ahead so stress is
minimized. When crisis does hit, strong families unite and draw on one another
for strength and support.
Finally, strong families have rhythm. They have routines,
rituals, and traditions that give direction, meaning, and structure to the daily
flow of life. There are rules or principles that they live by. These family
patterns or rhythms also give stability and clarify family roles and
expectations. Still, the healthiest families are also open to change. They have
learned to adapt to the changing needs of their family. They grow with the times
and one another. From both the past and the present grow new traditions and new
rhythm. The harmony and rhythm may change in creative ways, but the beauty of
the music continues.
Effective family communication could be listed as a seventh
family strength, but actually communication is a basis for all family strengths.
As the six strengths develop, so does communication. The reverse is also true,
effective family communication contributes to the development of family
All families have room for improvement. All families have some
strengths. By adding strengths to those you already have, you can make your
family even stronger.
Here are several ideas for strengthening your family:
Have regular dates. If you are married, make time for
regular fun-time with your partner. A strong marriage can add strength to
the family. Some families also have regular date nights with their children.
Regardless of your family circumstance, make time for the important
relationships in your life.
Hold regular family meetings. Family meetings help us
give proper attention to our family. They provide a forum of discussion for
family issues, and an opportunity to plan for family time. Family meetings
help us to be proactive instead of reactive.
Make a point to express your appreciation more often.
Leave thank-you notes around the house. Incorporate an appreciation ritual
into your family meeting. Celebrate special achievements of family members.
Make a list of 101 things for which your family can be grateful.
Make a plan for effectively dealing with conflict before
you have conflict. Don't wait until the heat is on and tempers are high to
decide how to best resolve a disagreement. Plan ahead and then, when needed,
put your plan into action.
Explore you family history. Trace your family lines. Find
out about roots and share the lessons of life from heroes in your family
line. Find out what your ancestors stood for. Family history is a wonderful
activity for all ages.
Keep a family journal or scrap book of significant family
events and achievements. Remembering the good times can give us strength to
endure the tough times.
Celebrate! Recognize the achievements of family members.
Remember significant anniversaries with parties or family rituals. Make time
to bask in the joyful moments of life.
Fantastic Families: 6 Proven Steps to Building a Strong Family
by Nick Stinnett, Joe Beam, and Alice Beam
The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties
by William J. Doherty
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
by Stephen R. Covey
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