NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Your Own Perfect Family

Your Own Perfect Family

 

          The perfect families portrayed in television shows can make even the strongest of families a little jealous.  Comparing real families to these fantasy families is like comparing artificial turf to natural grass. From a distance, it all looks pretty good.  On closer inspection though, most of us prefer the real thing – weeds and all.

          Unlike some of their television counterparts, real families are not perfect.  Real families have problems.  And real problems aren’t solved by a humorous comment from the youngest family member.  Living in a family means living with constant change, and change often causes stress.  

          Some families, however, are consistently better than others at coping with the stress that some problems create. Family relationship experts call these successful families “strong families.” Various scales measuring factors such as the quality of the marriage relationship and the quality of parent-child relationships help to distinguish between strong and not-so-strong families.

          Careful study and evaluation of strong families has revealed a variety of common characteristics. As you read over the following characteristics of strong families, keep in mind that no family is perfect. Be careful not to focus so much on the “weeds” that you can’t see the “grass.”

           Commitment- Strong families commit themselves to promoting each other’s happiness. The commitment comes from sharing meaningful experiences, from involvement in setting family goals, and from seeing these goals carried out. Commitment is a vital factor in developing a sense of caring and unity among family members. Regular family discussions encourage family commitment.

           Expressed Appreciation - Sure you appreciate your family and all the things family members do for you. Strong families do much more than feel appreciation, they express it. They let each other know, through words and actions, that they are special.

           A Strong Marriage - The health of the marriage influences a family’s well-being. When the marriage is a successful, happy partnership, this success spills over into other family relationships. Characteristics of strong marriages, such as clear communication, mutual respect, and self-disclosure, also build strong families. In successful blended families, a healthy marriage often is a particularly critical factor. Single-parenting can also be the basis of a vital, healthy family.  In families of divorce, a congenial, cooperative relationship with the ex-spouse is the desired situation.

          Time Together - Strong families frequently work, play, eat, and attend religious and social functions together. They share responsibilities and structure their lives so they can spend time with one another.

           Good Communication Skills - In strong families all lines of communication are open. Information flows freely. Members of strong families put forth the effort to hear what the other person says and feels. They also are comfortable voicing opinions of their own and are open to change. Though they don’t always agree, they do get everything out in the open and handle disagreements creatively by using conflict management skills.

           A Healthy Lifestyle - Proper nutrition, adequate rest, and plenty of exercise are essential for optimal wellness. Stress management skills, quiet time, and a healthy balance between work and family also are important.

When all individuals within a family function at their best, the result is a stronger family.

          A Positive Outlook - Strong families deal with crises in constructive ways. They search for the silver lining in each dark cloud they meet and they stick together. Strong families believe they can manage and survive any crisis that comes their way. They know that the crisis will pass and that there are many resources available in the community to help them.

          Involvement with Friends and Community- No family is an island. Strong families stay in touch with friends and relatives, are friendly with neighbors, and are willing to help others in time of need.  They are involved in community happenings and youth organizations that the children participate in- think 4-H!

          Fun Times- Strong families laugh together. Humor, spontaneity, and wit help to keep the family focused on the positive. They have fun together because they genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

          All families have strengths, and all families have room for improvement.

 

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