The 7 Characteristics of a Healthy Family
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I was sitting at the pool as I watched my son swim the other day, trying to fit every bit of fun into the last days of summer. As I was soaking up the sun, I noticed a family sitting behind me. They had about ten years on our family with two boys and a girl who were well established in their tween years.
As I listened to their conversations, I realized how different we were from them. They were animated, most likely all extroverts, with an energy about them that didn't seem to quit.
The dad was in his 40's, yet dressed like his tween son's, with his trucker hat slightly tilted, and looked like the kind of guy who would make a good youth pastor. You know the type.
The difference between them and us wasn't so much so that we would never be friends, but different enough that I couldn't imagine myself apart of their family. I would find myself exhausted within 10 minutes. I actually felt exhausted listening to them.
It brought on a conversation my husband and I had about how mind-blowing it is that families tolerate and live with one another for however long they do. More astonishingly yet, a man and woman are gathered in holy matrimony and expected to not only survive, but thrive in a loving and monogamous relationship for the rest of their lives.
I mean, old couples who are married for 30+ years should be getting gold medals, rings, or perhaps walkers, not the glorified movie stars, NFL athletes, etc.
But for some reason, this unity and bond works—most times. Your family is your family, and being apart of another just wouldn't do. You would feel uncomfortable and misplaced like you did when you attended your very first sleepover. I remember that feeling. It still gives me shivers thinking about it.
It's from this realization that I can't imagine what kids feel like who are in the foster system. They don't feel as though they belong anywhere. And if they are lucky enough to find a loving family, it takes time and intentionality to grow accustomed to them and their ways.
Families are the backbone of our youth that shapes our perspectives and molds our perceptions.
If a family unit is not functioning healthily, the context by which we operate will be warped.
I tried to do a bit of research to find out statistics on broken homes producing broken people. I have found no such findings, but in my lifetime, this has been a common denominator of families I know.
As there are always exceptions, and this is not a generalization, I believe that healthy families are more likely to produce healthy individuals than broken families are.
By broken, I mean a family not having a mother or father still together or present in a child's life. Or an element of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as emotional or physical abuse.
It's with this realization that I have come up with some characteristics of what healthy families do daily to keep their family bond at its closest, and their physical health at its best.
When one can nurture and protect a family unit, they will be investing in the mental and physical well-being of their children as well as their own.
They eat one meal per day together
I have always been grateful to my mom for instilling in our family a tradition of eating meals together in the evenings. It's with these meals we were able to share our day's contents, and just be together. It's with the togetherness that families can truly get to know one another and create a sense of comradery.
Check out this convenient Magnetic Dry Erase Menu Board for Fridge to help you master meal planning, and keep yourself accountable!
2. They don't have unlimited or unmonitored screen time
In recent studies, they found that some mental health issues are directly related to unrestricted and unmonitored screen time. Read more about that here.
Parents who allow this, expose their children to violence, and a myriad of age-inappropriate content.
On the same note, parents should also have no screen time zones, as to not interfere with quality and intentional time with their kids. People are becoming less aware of their children's needs and more aware of the contents of their smartphones.
If you want to beat the odds of mental health illnesses and feelings of neglect from your children, then limit screen time for the whole family. You'll thank me later.
If you’re interest in receiving a FREE PRINTABLE SCREEN TIME CHECKLIST to help your child balance screen time without you having to yell at them, check this out.
3. They communicate their feelings with one another
When your home is a safe place for you to be who you are and share your heart, then it will benefit everyone. When families can learn healthy communication, resolving arguments, and so on, it will instill in the children, the skills necessary for them to have a healthy family life with their children.
If you don't currently have this, then perhaps think about going and seeing a counselor who can help you all navigate your feelings. It's crucial, especially for children, to be able to share their emotions with their parents, as you can be the one to help and guide them through dealing with negative feelings.
Check out My Life Journals for Kids if you want a way for your child to learn to better express themselves. Journaling is an amazing tool that has benefits such as improving their writing skills, processing Little and BIG feelings, and so much more.
4. They go in nature and play together
Our family is all about hiking, biking, camping, adventuring. Some of our greatest memories are when we are out in nature. I find it sad that kids aren't experiencing the great outdoors as they should. It's robbing them of their childhood.
Children are becoming more fascinated with creating their own universes in video games, then exploring the one they are living in. I'm no advocate of sheltering children from everything, including video games.
But these are opportunities you have as parents to teach your children the beauty of moderation and self-control. Video games aren't in and of themselves wrong, but we have to be aware of which ones our kids are being exposed to, and how often they play them.
Being in nature does amazing things to your brain, calms anxiety, and so much more.
You can teach your child skills that they will use for the rest of their lives like carving (check out this awesome wooden knife to start them off), starting a fire, survival techniques—all things most kids don’t have a clue about.
When we lived in Germany, my son was apart of a Kindergarten that did class outside for an entire week, multiple times a year. They learned skills I thought he would never know. Europe definitely understand the importance of getting kids outside. It not only improves their mental health, it teaches them SO much.
5. They have schedules, rules, and consequences, and CHORES
I am someone who struggles WITH having a schedule, but also struggles WITHOUT having a schedule. Lately, I have realized that when a schedule is in place, no matter how inconvenient it may seem, it helps our family.
Especially in the summer, our son needs to know that we will make time for him and when that will be. Both parents working from home is hard for an eight-year-old to understand. They think, well, you're home. Why aren't you able to play with me? ALL the time?
The same goes for rules and consequences. We have rules set in place so that our son has a balance of screen time, and the right amount of sleep. When he doesn't abide by the rules, he gets privileges taken away. The first one to go—screen time!
Chores is another amazing tool to teach your child responsibility and follow through. Our rule is that he has to finish all of his weekly chores and homework to get ANY screen time on the weekends. He uses this chore chart to help him keep track.
6. They find ways to be physically active together
Creating emotional bonds together is essential, but there is yet another characteristic of a healthy, thriving family, and that's their physical health. Instilling in our children a sense of respect for our bodies can be nurtured from when they are little. Limiting sugar, going on daily walks, or taking bike rides, are all ways you can implement healthy.
Another way to help your children see the benefit of a healthy physical lifestyle is to have them cook with you. Show them how to chop up veggies, the nutrition they give your body, and why you should eat them. Cooking with one another not only creates a fun activity to do together, but it also gives them knowledge of where food comes from, and how to respect their bodies with what they eat.
7. They don't expect perfection and have grace for one another
Our family is of the Christian faith, so our views on love and grace come from that. We don't want to expect perfection from our children because we know that we ourselves are imperfect. We show our kids that by apologizing to them when we wrong them.
But, everything we teach our kids from our faith in God is never forced. We believe that it's their decision to follow God. All we can do is guide and encourage them or answer any questions they have.
It's with our faith that we draw our actions on how we treat one another. We love one another as we love ourselves. We put other people's needs before our own. We share our heart so that we can better be there for one another. We take responsibility for our actions and teach humility of character.
We also make an effort to have Bible reading before bed, with an age appropriate Bible that my son has LOVED growing up.
This looks different for every family. But what I think the most important lesson here is that you're not expecting perfection. Kids can get quickly overwhelmed at the thought of pleasing their parents. For us to expect perfect grades or behavior is unrealistic and will end up exasperating our children.
A family bond is one so strong that when fostered and nurtured the right way, will mold mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy people.