Family Strength #4: COMMUNICATION
Strong families communicate. They talk. They share themselves. They share their feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, joys, sorrows, experiences, growth, and needs. Their communication patterns are clear, open, and frequent.
They take the time to talk, to listen, and respond to what others have to say.
It is especially important to talk about feelings. Talk about feelings and experiences while driving in the car, while sharing household chores, or during dinner time. You can encourage family members to share by saying, “Tell me more.” “Wow. That must have been exciting (frustrating, etc.).” “What was the best part of the day for you?”
When your family has a problem, make suggestions that are kind and helpful. Try to suggest actions that you or others could take to improve the situation or solve the problem. If you criticize another person’s actions without helping that person come up with an alternative, he or she may feel frustrated, helpless, and unworthy. At all times, even when giving hard-to-hear feedback, speak from the heart out of love.
Be a good listener. Listening to what others say and feel is one of the most powerful ways of showing love. To be good listeners we often must set aside our lectures and really try to understand from the viewpoint of the other person. The goal is simply to hear, understand, and accept the other person’s feelings and views. Real acceptance and understanding take patience and active listening.
Family Strength #5: COMMUNITY & FAMILY TIES
Strong families are not isolated. They draw on other people and groups for support and friendship. If they have a hard time dealing with a problem, they are willing to seek outside help. Strong families also tend to be closely involved with the schools, churches, and local organizations that promote the well-being of the community and the individual ties with relatives, neighbors, and friends are especially important. Busy schedules can make it hard to spend time with people outside the family. But relationships can sometimes be kept up by having family members write brief notes. Or the family can make it a special point to visit with certain people.
Helping people in need in our own extended families, in our neighborhoods, and in our communities can be very rewarding. A family might choose an elderly person or couple who need help with raking leaves, caring for a lawn or garden, or cleaning or repairing a house. They might read to someone. Or the family might just visit.
Family Strength #6: TEAMWORK
Strong families make decisions, solve family problems, and do family work together. Everyone has a role to play and everyone participates. Parents are the leaders, but the children’s opinions and efforts are invited, encouraged, and appreciated.
Making real decisions is good practice and can help children grow up to be responsible adults. Children need opportunities to make decisions, to participate in family decisions, and to observe the parents’ decision-making process and results.
Children are more apt to carry out their responsibilities if they have some choice as to what those responsibilities are and can see how these particular tasks help the family. Teenagers are more willing to go along on a family vacation if they help decide where to go and what to do. Older children and teens are more likely to accept limitations regarding purchases if they have an awareness of the family’s financial situation.
Letting children take part in decision-making says to them “You are important, and what you have to say counts.” Many families have found that a family meeting improves communication and decision-making. During a family meeting, every member of the family has the opportunity to express opinions and ideas, offer compliments or complaints, and most importantly, be listened to.
Family Strength #7: FLEXIBILITY & OPENNESS TO CHANGE
All families develop habits, routines, and a set of rules. These patterns are ways to deal with day-to-day life. Some of the more obvious patterns are who cooks, washes dishes does the laundry, or fixes the car. Other less obvious patterns include: Who has the right to make what decisions? How are differences of opinion handled? How are anger, affection, or other emotions expressed?
The development of a stable family pattern is necessary to deal with all the things a family must face, decide, and accomplish in daily life. But a family must also be able to adapt to new needs and circumstances.
There are a number of common changes most families face. Children get older. Adults switch jobs or retire. Families are reshaped by birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, sickness, and death. Families move to different communities. Family relationships are most likely to remain healthy and strong if family members adapt to these changes — and support each other in dealing with change.