To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.
I recently finished the book, “The Secret of Happy Families” by Bruce Feiler and it got me thinking about healthy family systems. As a trained marriage and family therapist, I have a lot of education on healthy families, and insight into how to help make family systems healthier if they are struggling. Making these changes within families because a reality can be helpful on all levels, from the individual to the couple to the family as a whole. Although at this time I only see women in my counseling private practice in Flower Mound, Texas, family problems come up frequently in my sessions; any positive life changes that an individual makes can also have a positive effect on their relationships and family as a whole. In this blog, I’ll be focusing on traits of healthy families, common family issues and ways to create more family connection.
Let’s start with some traits often found in healthy families. These may include:
- Caring and compassion for all family members.
- Support during hard life events.
- Empathy when a family member is struggling.
- Emotional connection between family members.
- Room for autonomy and togetherness.
- Laughter and shared humor.
- Good boundary setting.
- Structure, schedules and consequences that are clearly stated.
- Space for self-expression, creativity and differences.
- Spending quality time together and enjoying each other’s company.
What would you add to this list?
The following are some common family issues that we see in counseling:
- Frequent arguing and disrespect between family members.
- A lack of empathy, validation and support for family members.
- Emotional disconnection from one another.
- Autonomy or togetherness, without space for both.
- A lack of laughter and shared humor.
- Unclear boundaries between family members.
- No sense of structure, scheduling and unclear behavioral consequences.
- Family members who don’t feel like their voice or opinion matters in the family.
- No space for differences between family members.
- A lack of quality time together.
What else would you add here?
Finally, here are some ideas for how to create more family connection:
- Schedule a weekly family meeting where all voices in the family are heard and understood.
- Involve kids in the making of the family schedule, bedtime routines, consequences for negative behaviors, etc.
- Attend important events for all family members.
- Empathize and validate feelings
- Allow space for emotions for all family members.
- Keep emotional reactivity low, and find coping strategies to help all family members accomplish this feat.
- Spend quality time together enjoying activities that bring you all joy.
- Try new things, explore as a family, and have new family adventure when ever possible.
- Go to therapy to learn more about your unhealthy family patterns, and ways to break these patterns.
- Know that each and every member brings value to your family, and find ways to embrace this, in hard times as well as the good ones.
Anything you’d add to this list?
So, how healthy do you feel like your family is at this time? What areas of your family life are going well? What areas of your family life could use some work? In the best of times, healthy families still have issues come up, but they are often easily navigated. However, when times are hard and family issues arise, getting through these familial problems can sometimes feel next to impossible. If you or someone you know is currently experiencing family strain, please reach out to a counselor in your state for help and support!