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Healthy Family

What is a healthy family?
In the past, a family has been thought of as 2 parents raising children. Today's families come in all shapes and sizes. Just as people are different, so are families. Whether or not there are 2 adults, healthy families:

  • communicate clearly
  • share responsibilities willingly
  • find to spend time together as a family and help meet each person's own needs

Being an adult in a healthy family means:

  • being a loving partner (whether or not there are children)
  • setting rules and limits for children them right from wrong
  • supporting and caring for the family financially and emotionally
  • being a good example for the children

Being a child in a healthy family means:

  • playing and sharing
  • learning how to work out conflicts with others
  • learning how to love self and others

What are the key elements in creating a healthy family?
The key elements in creating a healthy family are communication and flexibility.

Communication includes:

  • talking regularly to other family members
  • using praise and positive talk to shape behavior
  • arguing, which helps family members learn how to manage differences of opinion
  • taking time to sit down as a family and discuss the events of the day or week                                           

Some families use mealtime as the time to talk. Others set up a regular "family meeting" time to air their issues together. It is important that this time not be interrupted by the TV, phone calls, or other distractions. The focus of this time is talking and listening. Everyone should have a chance to speak.

Effective communication focuses on "I" statements. An "I" statement tells what the speaker thinks and feels without blaming another person. Good communicators do not put down others. This makes it safe to speak openly. These communication skills take practice.

Emotional flexibility includes:

  • being able to laugh at yourself
  • being able to play
  • actively listening to others, which involves making eye contact, asking questions, and repeating to make sure you have understood what others are saying. Family members approach problems with an open mind, listen without judging, and share their feelings.

What are signs of trouble?
Life can be stressful. Trying to balance work, school, and home, and reach personal goals can cause problems for families. Many families need help to communicate and be emotionally flexible. Here are some signs that your family may be in trouble:

  • behaving in ways that cause problems for other family members, such as abusing alcohol or drugs
  • feeling like everyday routines are just too much
  • not being able to talk at all or withdrawing from each other
  • getting defensive with each other or making excuses instead of taking responsibility
  • constantly blaming or insulting each other and not treating other people with respect

The first step is for everyone in the family to agree to try to make things better. The next step might be to get a book on families and healthy communication at the library or bookstore. Finally, there is family counseling. You can learn new ways to communicate, to work through problems, and to relate to one another.