Building Strong Families
What does the word family mean and how do we make strong families? The word family has changed over time. Some people may think of family as their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Others may expand the definition to close friends or neighbors. The constructs of a family are diverse. However, what constitutes a family is connection through shared history and experiences (Innis, 2016).
How a family functions determines its strength. Research suggests that strong healthy families are identified as having specific characteristics. The family should work together as a team in addition to developing six core traits: commitment, communication, appreciation, time together, religious orientation, and ability to adapt.
Why should a family work together like a team? A team is a group of individuals working together for a common goal. Leading the family as a group considers the family as a unit and not solely individual parts. A parent is a coach and an instructor. A football coach centers his/her coaching around the entire team, how players work together, putting players in the appropriate positions, working out plays, etc. A special position coach (instructor) focuses on the individual player’s performance and morale (Wulf, 2005).
Consider an orchestra conductor. An orchestra conductor must be concerned that each musician is playing his or her part and that the whole orchestra is in harmony (Wulf, 2005). The flute instructor is concerned with instructing the individual that plays the flute. The coach and/or orchestra conductor are team focused. A parent in this role is focused on the family. They are making family-centered decisions. When a family is operating as a team every person feels supported and able to contribute (raisingchildren.net.au). The specialized coach is individual minded and cares for each individual family member. Parents need to be both the team coach as well as in special position instructor/coach. This difficult task can be accomplished when a family incorporates these 6 key components when building a strong family.
6 Key Components to a strong family
Each individual person in the family needs to know they are of the highest priority (Innis, 2016). Commitment to the family and the individual members promotes unity, family identity, and creates safety and stability for its members. Suggestions for strengthening family commitment may include, date nights with spouses, parent/child dates, establish scheduled family times, establish family routines, play games together, eat meals together or volunteer together.
According to Dothage (2017), communication is the cornerstone of relationships. It is the “mechanism for the socialization of children as well as the primary way in which family members establish, maintain, and dissolve intimate relationships”. Communication involves talking frequently and having open and honest conversations. It is also important to mention Mehrabian’s findings that suggests that 7 percent of communication is spoken word, 38 percent is expressed through body language and tone of voice and 55 percent is communicated through facial expressions. This means 93 percent of communication of feelings and attitudes are nonverbal. Parents must be in tune with their feelings and attitudes as well as that of their children. Children are aware of what parents are not saying, so be attuned to your non-verbal communication. Children will and are modeling what they are learning from parents. Suggestions to strengthen communication include having regular family meetings, give hugs and kisses, limit frowns and extinguish harsh tones, stop, look, and listen when being spoken to, be willing to discuss hard topics like admitting when you are wrong, sex, drugs, etc. and always be ready for spontaneous conversations.
Praise! Building strong families includes showing appreciation for each other on a daily basis. It is recognizing members differences, talents, and abilities while promoting those attributes with positive reinforcement. Show appreciation with words and affection, take interest in your child. Who are they really, not who do you want them to be. Share family memories and stories together, write love notes to each other, plan a family day and leave cell phones behind, have family nights, read together daily, and express gratitude for each other. Research continues to highlight the importance of gratitude. Be mindful of being appreciative of each other daily
Strengthening relationships requires time and time is spent being intentional about being together. Time together creates memories and shared memories promote and strengthen families. Quality and quantity time have value. As mentioned earlier, always be ready for spontaneous conversations. Teens will talk late at night. Parents we aren’t always are best late at night. Sacrifice sleep before sacrificing relationship. These times will become precious as they continue to grow and mold into adults. Have family outings, game nights, doing projects together, eating and praying together, having a common goal like getting out of debt and work together to accomplish the goal.
Families that believe in a greater power than themselves and share these same beliefs model acceptance and tolerance. “Religion, as a cultural system, provides a framework for social behavior, social norms and sense of life” (Geertz, 1973). In a study conducted by Sabatier, Mayer, Friedlmeier, Lubiewska, and Trommsdorff (2011), religiosity had a positive impact on adolescent’s family orientation, which increased life satisfaction. Going to church together, creating community in a faith-based setting, and praying together are important to building strong families. Kids need to know that when life gets difficult, Mom and Dad have a faith and strength that will carry them through.
ABILITY TO ADAPT
Strong families are able to cope with difficulties and crisis. They are resilient. They are able to “adapt to stressful and potentially damaging events as well as predictable life cycle changes” (Krysan, Moore, Zill, & Trends, 1990). This family can absorb stress and cope. They are mindful of how others in the family feel at stressful times and they encourage working together when things get tough. They do not isolate. These families have a social connectedness. They are available! Be available, even when life is hard!
If you are experiencing difficulty coping with a life stressor, please call a professional counselor. They are available to help you cope with life difficulties and stressors. Personally, I consider it an honor to walk with people on their life journey and struggles. Being resilient is often asking for help when needed. If you are looking for a compassionate Christian counselor that cares, please reach out to me, firstname.lastname@example.org or any of our other counselors at SureHope Counseling and Training Center
The characteristics of building a strong family are not exclusive to this list. However, the strengths identified are connected. It is important to look at your family. Find your strengths and be grateful for them, appreciate them, and nurture them. Consider looking to see areas for growth and begin creating a plan or road map to implement and begin to strengthen these areas. Take a team approach, focus on commitment, communication, appreciation, time together, faith and resilience.
Remember, the family is the first organized institution created by God and for His glory. It should not be entered into lightly and once entered, it should be cherished and nurtured. The family is the foundation of all cultures. Care for her well.
SureHope Counseling and Training Center- www.surehopecounseling.com
Family strength inventory- http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g1881.pdf
The Intentional Family By: William J. Doherty
Family Life Today- https://shop.familylife.com
Focus on the Family- https://www.focusonthefamily.com/about/
Children’s Books- I Love You Stinky Face, Hugs and Kisses, Have You Filled a Bucket Today
Dothage, K. (2017). Communicating. University of Missouri Extension. http://extension.missouri.edu/bsf/communicating/index.htm. Retrieved 30, May, 2020.
Innis, G. 2016. What makes a family strong? Michigan State University. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/what_makes_a_family_strong. Retrieved 28, May 2020.
Krysan, M., Moore, K., Zill, N., Trends, C. 1990. Research on successful families. https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/research-successful-families. Retrieved 28, May, 2020.
Raisingchildren.net.au. 2006-2020. Good family relationships: How to build them. https://raisingchildren.net.au/grown-ups/family-life/routines-rituals-relationships/good-family-relationships. Retrieved 28, May 2020.
Sabatier, C., Mahyer, B., Friedlmeier, M., Lubiewska, K., Trommsdorff, G. (2011). Religiosity, family orientation, and life satisfaction of Adolescents. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022111412343.
Wulf, D. 2005. Building a strong family. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/building-a-strong-family/. Retrieved 28, May 2020.