We so often read about dysfunctional families that we may believe that there is no such thing as healthy families. But healthy families aren’t a myth – they really do exist. Your family may be one of them, but if not, you can learn how to help your family go from unhealthy to healthy. Also realize that most families have some healthy and some unhealthy traits – no family is perfect. And we really don’t want a perfect family for if the family has never suffered from any imperfections, it will be hard for children to adjust to an imperfect world. So take heart – your mistakes can be beneficial!

Healthy Families Have These Characteristics

1. Open, Honest And Respectful Communication

 For a family to communicate at the highest level, it needs to be open and honest in the talks, family members need to be respectful of each other, and listening (not just hearing) to what is being said are basic skills. This needs to take place in any communication and family meetings can be an excellent way of addressing more significant issues. Everyone must have a voice in the conversation, even the family cat!

2. Acceptance of Each Other

Healthy families accept each other as individuals and as part of the family system. This acceptance indicates that the family will abide by you throughout good and bad times. While behavior may not be accepted (i.e., such as drinking and drugging) the person is always accepted. This leads to #3.

3. Love And Compassion

Each person needs to validate each other through love and compassion no matter what the trial or tribulation. As above, the behavior may not be accepted, but the love is always there (even when we want to throttle someone).

4. Collaboration And Involvement

 Families that work together and play together are healthier than those who don’t. This involvement is significant for bonding both on an individual level and on the family level. Eating meals together, being involved in the kids’ school and after-school events, taking the children to work to show them what the jobs are like, having friends visit, visiting with other relatives, and doing leisure activities such playing Pokemon Go, taking walks together, or playing board games are invaluable for healthy living.

5. Healthy Coping Skills

Because life is not always easy or simple, a family has both individual and family coping skills to use when dealing with the difficult times. These coping skills can be in these 5 areas:

  • Physical: taking care of the basics such as healthy meals, enough sleep, exercise, and hygiene, and basic safety;
  • Emotional: being able to feel feelings and talk about them with the family, journal, cry or laugh, talk to a teacher or counselor at school, go for family therapy, write/draw/dance/sing and participate in other creative emotional outlets, jog/walk/exercise out the feelings;
  • Intellectual: read, write, have deep discussions with family members or others, study, learn, teach; do puzzles or healthy video games, do creative activities;
  • Social/relational: having time with family and others together while also having alone time for we need to also have a relationship with self such as reading, meditating, writing, or doing yoga or tai chi;
  • Spiritual: having a sense of communion with a higher essence, being with others including the family, taking walks in nature, having fun, being creative, going to a religious ceremony or spiritual event, reading religious/spiritual books, meditating, prayer, being alone.

All of these are healthy family characteristics. Look back over these. You may find your family in the middle. Look over them again. You may find new ideas for a healthier family.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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