In this “Strive to Thrive” blog, I want to talk to you about what it takes to be a “successful” family.
I am not talking about being a rich family, or a famous family. I am not even talking about being a trouble-free family. I am talking about being the kind of family that endures during hard times and rolls with the punches, stays connected to one another, and raises kids that go on to have the same connected, strong kind of family when they grow up. Scientists have studied families for many years, and they have found that there are some ways to make families stronger.
6 Ways to Start Building a Stronger, More Successful Family NOW!
1) Spend time together.
Spend as much time together as a family as you can. Did you know that kids whose families eat dinner together at least four times a week do better in school? Or that kids whose families do something like ride bikes or take a walk together at least once a week are healthier? It’s not what the activity is that counts, it’s the time together that counts. You can even spend time together getting chores done as a family. This counts as spending time together and it helps you with the next family-strength builder on the list!
2) Use family problems & pressures to build a team when you can.
Involve your kids in solving some of the family problems that they are old enough to handle. If the family is too busy to clean up the apartment, for example, have a “race” to see who can pick up the fastest. If you are all running late and trying to get dinner on the table, call the family together and talk about your day while you work on getting the table set and the meal prepared. If you have teenagers, ask them what solutions they can offer to bigger family problems like money worries. Try to involve your kids in the teamwork of everyday life and its struggles. They will become better problem solvers and be more loyal to the family if you do.
3) Express caring and support to each family member once each day.
Ask each kid about his or her interests or school activities, express appreciation for something your child did well (even if it is a little thing), or do one nice thing for your child each day. You will notice, that after just a few weeks, most kids will start to do the same thing for their parents and for one another. Families whose members show interest, caring, support, and appreciation for one another on a regular basis tend to be stronger than those who don’t!
4) Celebrate, with your children, your spiritual beliefs & your family heritage.
Share with them what you are proud about in your faith or your family background or your cultural or ethnic background. Talk about ways that your cultural group or your church has bonded together in the face of hard times and express pride and joy in being part of groups that have shown that strength. Tell stories of pride that you know about your family history and share family traditions by making those traditions part of your own family’s life. Families who talk about, celebrate, and show pride in their culture and faith have the strength of pride on their side.
As you can guess, in order to do most of the things on the list so far, families have to TALK! Communicate with your kids often. Be open. Be honest. Ask your kids what they are proud of, what they enjoy, what they worry about, and tell them some of what you are thinking and feeling. You can use talking and communication while doing something fun (all communication does not have to be serious), to figure out how to solve family problems, to express that support and interest I talked about in number 3, and to tell stories of family, cultural, and spiritual pride from number 4. Families who talk often, openly, and with positive tones of respect and support are also stronger than those who do not talk, or who spend a lot of time talking negatively to one another.
6) Find ways to join together to help others in need.
Even families who are having a hard time in life tend to be stronger when they spend a little bit of time each month helping someone else. Kids whose families are helpers and givers grow up to be more helping and giving too. It doesn’t have to be big – it really is the thought that counts! Maybe you can make an extra plate of dinner for an elderly neighbor and ask your kids to walk it over. Or you might join with your church in helping out the needy. You can even ask your kids to pick an item of clothing that is too small for them and donate it to the local clothing bank. The action of giving and the experience of being part of something bigger than yourself- helping others – is what is important.
Remember, any of us who are raising kids are busy, and it is easy to look at such a long “to do” list and feel, “How can I do ANY of this?” The great news is, you don’t have to do ALL of the items. Any of the items on this list can make your family stronger. So pick one, start small, and start doing it today! Let me know how it goes!