By Susan Hansen, Extension Educator,
Healthy families have many things in common. In healthy families, members appreciate and support each other as individuals as well as family members. Research has identified twelve characteristics of healthy families.
Healthy families have healthy lifestyles. Healthier people cope better with everyday stress. Activities such as walking, cycling and swimming can be done as a family to keep everyone fit. Eating a variety of foods keeps the mind and body alert.
Healthy families appreciate special items. A strong, healthy relationship is a worthwhile goal for everyone. It helps adults develop their potential and it provides a model for children. Remembering special events such as birthdays and anniversaries through words, cards, time or gifts help show that they are special people.
Healthy families keep promises. Commitments are promises we make to ourselves or others. When kept, they reinforce the trust in a relationship. When broken, they create doubt and mistrust.
Healthy families talk it over. Communicating is the key to successful decision-making, conflict resolution, child rearing, financial management and many other family issues. It takes time and energy to make it work. When different values make agreeing impossible, “agree to disagree” is one option some families find helpful. Focus on improving family’s communication skills by practicing listening to words, understanding unspoken (body) language, clarifying messages, giving feedback and reaching understanding and agreement.
Healthy families respect each individual. We are all members of various groups - work, religious, civic, and our most important group, our family. At the same time, we are unique and important individuals. In healthy families, members appreciate and support each other as individuals as well as family members.
Healthy families make time for each other. In some ways, time is like money - it seems like we never have enough of either one. Everyone finds the time or money for those things that are most important. How important is time with your family?
Healthy families are fun. Happy times together may be planned or spontaneous. Fun times make wonderful memories as we look back on family time.
Healthy families believe in themselves. All families face tough times occasionally. Healthy families have confidence that they will survive any crisis and come back even stronger.
Healthy families are involved. These families create communities that care, almost like one big family. They know that, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Healthy families are able to forgive. The ability to forgive a family member for an action which is upsetting can open doors to deeper understanding. The fear of opening up trust to a person who has broken trust means that the relationship cannot grow.
Healthy families say thank you. Everyone likes to be told they are appreciated. Words, gifts, hugs and time together are some ways to show others that we like what they did and value who they are. Say thank you for not just the big things but the little things as well.
Healthy families share beliefs and values. Being a family is more than just living under the same roof. For many families, religion shapes many of their beliefs. Healthy families talk about their values and live them consistently.
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