This is the final part of the series I have written about traits of healthy families. As identified by Dolores Curran in her book, Traits of a Healthy Family, the 15 traits that healthy families show are listed below. Based on her research, a healthy family is one that:
- Communicates and listens.
- Values table time and conversation.
- Affirms and supports one another.
- Teaches respect for others.
- Develops a sense of trust.
- Has a sense of play and humor.
- Has a balance of interaction among members.
- Shares leisure time.
- Strong sense of family in which rituals and traditions abound.
- Exhibits a sense of shared responsibility.
- Teaches a sense of right and wrong.
- Respects the privacy of one another.
- Values service to others.
- Has a shared religious core.
- Admits to and seeks help with problems.
No one family is able to consistently live out all of these traits, but they serve as ideals and goals for skills and traits to develop in your family. Today we’ll look at the last five.
Having a sense of right and wrong means that the parents share a set of core values and clearly transmit these values to their children. Parents help their children live morally by modeling integrity between their values and their behavior, and also by holding the children responsible for their own moral behavior. Take, for instance, the parent who highly values kindness and compassion. They will try to model this behavior in all their interactions with others, knowing their children are watching. Additionally, such a parent would apologize to their child if he or she ever treated their child in a cold or harsh manner. This approach of modeling a value is the most effective way to instill that value in your child.
Respecting privacy means each person feels they have personal space in which they feel safe. It also means each person is not only allowed privacy, but that privacy is encouraged. This can range from making sure the bathroom door is shut when someone is using it, to allowing your teenager to make his or her bedroom their own domain. As children grow into adolescence, this trait becomes more important and more challenging. Adolescents often want to spend time alone in their room, or decorate their room (and themselves) in ways that the parents would never prefer. This is the natural developmental process of adolescents becoming separate beings from their parents. It must be acknowledged, however, that a parent’s ability to respect their child’s privacy depends on the child’s ability to demonstrate trustworthiness.
The trait of “valuing service to others” is a value that stems from The Golden Rule of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Families who embody this trait are generous, hospitable, and caring towards others outside the family. To successfully make this trait a part of your family, find ways to serve others in substantial, real ways. It’s best to keep your service to others as simple as possible, and to maintain limits to your service. Each member of the family only has so much time and energy. Service to others shouldn’t result in neglect to yourself or your family.
A trait that stems from the one above is having a shared religious core. Healthy families report that faith in God plays a foundational role in their daily life. It seems that having a religious core serves to strengthen the family support system. In healthy, vibrant families this shared spiritual or religious core is passed on to the children in positive and meaningful ways. This is done through modeling and through shared activity that has religious meaning.
Lastly, the healthy family admits to and seeks help with problems. Healthy families see problems and difficulties as a normal part of family life. When problems are seen in this light, a family is less likely to be thrown into a panic and react in extreme ways (i.e., denial, yelling, separating, kicking a child out, etc). Healthy families develop problem-solving techniques to deal with problems when they arise. This could mean that a family seeks the help of a pastor, counselor, tutor, or other type of outside aid in their community. In order to do this, family members must set aside issues of pride and insecurity and remain flexible. Rather than seeing such need for outside help as a weakness, family members see it as a statement of how important they are to each other.