Do you have a healthy family? Most of us would say yes, in most areas, and if we’re completely honest, we have areas that struggle. This applies to those of us who are in the midst of youngsters in our home to those who are taking on the grandparent role. Here are 6 ways I believe we can grow the healthiest possible family (and I am no expert–I just do a lot of reading!)
1. A Healthy Family Affirms and Supports Each Other
This is foremost modeled by mom and dad, as is everything that trickles down to the children.
Ask yourself: Do my husband and I praise each other’s strengths?
Are we tolerant of each other’s weaknesses?
Do we support each other in doing things that are of interest to our spouse but not to us?
Our kids are watching, and will ultimately treat each other in the way they learned from parent modeling. However, it’s not just how mom and dad treat each other, but how we treat our children. Are we affirming? Supporting? Do we focus on faults to a much larger degree than strengths? My husband and I have had times in our parenting when we have challenged ourselves to speak only affirming words to our children for a week–SO hard! It is incredibly easy to pick out all the faults, because children in their awkward, immature, developing selves are full of foibles.
Affirming is what lets our kids know they are valuable. Be specific, be generous. It is something I constantly have to remind myself to work at as a mom.
2. A Healthy Family Shares Responsibility In the Home
We all know that chores are important for kids, but there are many times when it’s just easier to do things ourselves isn’t it? Many times I have had to resist going after my children and “fixing” their bed after it’s been made, but when our children learn to take care of their things, we prepare them for adulthood. Chores can be tedious, time consuming for mom and dad to monitor, and often create tension in the relationship–especially as teenage years approach. But hold firm parents! You are giving your child the gift of taking responsibility for themselves and respecting those around them, a gift that will follow them into adulthood.
3. A Healthy Family Places Importance on Traditions
Think back on your childhood—what stands out? The traditions your family celebrated. Vacations to the same cabin in the woods, holidays with the same pumpkin soup served, or rituals of being read to each night as a child. We have started an annual tradition of family fall leaf clean up with pizza night. I am definitely more excited about this than my family!
Traditions give children a sense of stability, familiarity, and something that grounds them to their family name. Traditions are timeless-they can be passed down from generation to generation. What a beautiful way to connect the past to the present.
4. A Healthy Family Is Faith Based
Having a strong spiritual foundation for your family is important for two reasons:
~It connects all members of the family to a common belief system, one which can be referred to throughout the life of your family when making decisions, or instruction for behavior. It puts everyone on the same page.
~ Community. Having a strong church community, or community of others around your family who share the same values and beliefs is so healthy for your kids! They see other adults striving to be strong in their faith, living life together. For the first 15 years of our life raising children, we did so side by side with four other families who shared our Christian faith. We all went to different churches, but shared the same common core of faith. We were at the birth of each other’s children, we weathered the toddler years together, and watched our kids grow into adolescence. We just attended the high school graduation of the oldest child of this clan. It has been a gift to Jon and I to do parenting in community.
5. A Healthy Family respects the privacy of one another.
This is a great description I found from an author on this topic:
“A delicate balance exists between family members as they work together to satisfy the needs of the family as a whole and to preserve the right of each individual to grow strong on his own identity. Parents ideally hope to produce children who are emotionally strong and independent. Parental authority has to be absolute with young children. But as the children grow there is room for family discussion, shared decision-making, and a gradual transfer of authority.
The adolescent years are often a time of turmoil and trauma for all: continual conflicts arise over the latest fashion fad, choices of music, or choices of friends. These years are a challenge. Parents who have taught their children a sense of trust, given them security, instilled in them moral principles and a sense of responsibility, have to learn to let go and allow the children to find the right path. Parents who have a religious faith (and a sense of humor) to rely on will have the equipment to weather the inevitable storms.” (Delores Curran)
6. Pray Together
Many families pray together over the dinner table, and that is a wonderful way to express gratitude for what God has provided. However, we can take it one step farther by praying together about our lives. One way to really learn what is going on in your child’s heart is to ask them what their prayer request would be. Do this together, as a family, so all the members can hear. It’s amazing how honest and real kids will be in this moment. What a great opportunity to take those requests and then pray for your children the rest of the week.
We recently did this as a family and I wrote down our children’s requests on three individual index cards. When we all had shared and prayed collectively, I turned over their cards and asked that they pick a card from the pile. They each picked a sibling’s card, and will pray for that sibling during the next week. My hope is that it grows compassion, grace, and connection with each other.
6. A Healthy Family Makes Time for Each Other.
Whew, I had no idea how challenging this one would become as my kids grew up. Now that they all are in 7th grade through high school, their schedules make it very difficult to find quality time. Here are some of the things we do to protect this time:
A Traditional Night Out
My husband takes our son to the local sports bar across the street on Monday nights when we have a house full of women here for bible study. They watch sports, have some chips and a soda, and do a dad-led devotional.
Speaking Their Language
Once in a while, Ill try to speak my girl’s love language–nails. We will go get a pedicure followed by dinner out. Or, do a little shopping if it’s the season. This sometimes, however, gets stressful as we navigate negotiations on clothes, prices, and them not wanting to divulge their whole life over pizza to a very curious mom. So the next idea is one of my favorite.
A Short -Get-Away
One of the best things I have done with my daughters is take them on a “girls” trip. This past spring we booked a short and cheap cruise (inside room, basic accommodations), and we had a blast. In fact, we started after our first day of writing down all of our inside jokes because we had laughed so much. I can’t tell you how deeply satisfying it felt to spend some great quality time together, experiencing new parts of the world (the wide open ocean!), and listening to foreign taxi cab drivers give us a passionate lesson on transportation around Miami.
The Dinner Table
Since my husband travels for work, and my oldest has an evening job, along with youth group events, etc, we don’t have many nights that the five of us are all together. So when we do, it is a bit sacred for me. We prepare the meal together, eat together, and clean together. Then we’ll settle in for a favorite family TV show or once a week a family devotional if we can pull it off.
Quality time is tough. We have to squeeze it in when we can, and in a way that works for our family. It might look different for yours, which is the beauty of our individuality. I have learned not to force it, but to find creative ways to work it into your natural family schedule.
Here’s to HEALTHY, HAPPY families!