How to Nurture a Healthy and Happy Family Life
In an era of overtime, afterschool activities, and on-the-go dinners, parents and their children seem to be getting busier with each passing year. In order to thrive in our active culture, families need to take time to strengthen themselves from within.
Many factors impact the way we think about family life. Our experiences growing up within our own families, our religion, and our cultural background often have the strongest influence on our views.
Still, most of us would agree on some common characteristics of families:
- A family is a system – a group of people that together make up a whole unit.
- There typically are clear leader(s) in a family (ex., a grandparent in a multigenerational family, a mother and/or father, etc.).
- Each family member has a relationship with all of the other family members and to the family as a whole.
- There are also more specific relationships within a family, such as the couple relationship, the parenting relationship, the relationship among the kids.
- Each family member has one or more roles in the family (ex., the provider, the caregiver, the helper, the comedian, etc.).
- The behavior of one family member usually affects all or most other family members.
Sometimes, along the way, small (or big) breakdowns occur within a family. One or more parents may become less involved in leading the family. Family roles may need to shift due to life events (ex., an illness, change in job, a new child, children going to college, etc.). One or more family members may be struggling with a personal issue. And sometimes difficulties between the couple or parenting dyad occur, which often then affect their parenting and the overall relationships in the family.
Building up relationships within your family is a critical step in nurturing a healthy and happy family life. Here are some tips on how to strengthen family relationships:
Strengthening the couple or spousal relationship:
- Take time daily to connect intimately – take a walk, share a few minutes before bed – and really listen to each other.
- Take time daily or weekly to take care of business – communicate about bills and other responsibilities.
- Protect your intimate time and your taking-care-of-business time – make sure they happen and don’t bring business into intimate time and vice-versa.
- Communicate about frustrations with each other directly and not in front of your children.
- Make an effort to do positive things for your partner and give him or her feedback about what you most respect or enjoy about him or her.
Strengthening the parenting relationship:
- Agree to be a parenting team rather than individual parents and back each other up.
- When moving into new phases of your child’s development, take some time to discuss your views on parenting issues that can arise during that phase of development (ex., entering elementary school – sleepovers; entering middle school – going to concerts with friends, cigarettes, drugs; entering high school – dating, curfew).
- As a parenting team, approach difficult parenting decisions with the joint goal to overcome the problem together rather than having either parent “win” the debate.
- Use problem-solving strategies – identify the problem, brainstorm and list possible solutions, evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each possible solution, pick a solution together, and revisit the solution after you try it out.
Strengthening the sibling relationship:
- Find ways to show each child how they are valued as an individual in the family.
- Minimize comparisons among your children regarding their abilities with academics, sports, and social situations.
- Create activities to do as a family and for siblings to do together that are fun and appropriate for their age levels (ex., two siblings both in elementary school – going to an amusement park or the zoo accompanied by an adult for the day; a high school sibling and a younger sibling – going to a movie and out to dinner just the two of them).
It can be challenging to find the time and commit to building your family relationships. Take changes one at a time and remember to talk to each other about how it’s going. If you get stuck or feel like you are in way over your head, remember that you can always contact a professional counselor to get a little extra help along the way. Good luck!
Kathryn H. Leugers, Psy.D., M.B.A.