A healthy family environment does more than create a safe space for children to grow up. In fact, recent research indicates that healthy family dynamics can protect against poverty, reduce violence, prevent educational failure, and diminish community crime rates. Healthy families aren’t only important for the individual family members, but for society as a whole. It could even be said that restoring family health could very well change the course of history. However, understanding what defines and characterizes a healthy family dynamic is essential.
Healthy Family Relationships – What Is a Healthy Family?
A healthy family relationship cultivates a safe space in which children can thrive and all members of the family can interact without fear. This type of relationship is fostered through mutual trust, love, and support. Members of the family work together to complete tasks and reach goals that benefit not just themselves but the entire family unit. For instance, each family member may complete different weekly cleaning tasks to create a clean home that everyone can enjoy. A healthy family may be defined as one in which:
• Every member of the family receives mutual value and respect.
• Effective communication between all members is practiced.
• Every family member is given space to share his or her point of view.
• Each member of the family takes part in making big decisions.
• Adults equally share the responsibility of caring for the family.
Characteristics of a Healthy Family – What Makes a Healthy Family?
Families of different origins often hold different values. However, a recent study conducted in Australia illustrated that the strongest families share several common characteristics. Themes that emerged as common qualities in the strongest Australian families included:
• Active Listening – Members of the family listen to one another and communicate without judgment or reservation.
• Closeness – Family members hold similar beliefs and values that help each member feel a sense of belonging.
• Shared Interests – Members of the family share interests and engage in activities together to build closeness.
• Love – In a strong family, love and affection is shown through attentive care as well as positive words and interactions, and physical closeness, including hugs and kisses.
• Provision – Family members can rely on the family unit and caregivers to provide for their physical and emotional needs – encouragement, help, and reassurance.
• Approval – Members of the family also demonstrate understanding, respect, and appreciation of one another and their unique qualities.
• Investment – A healthy family is one in which each member is invested or committed to the wellbeing of the family, making the family unit a priority and remaining loyal to the values of the family unit.
• Flexibility – A healthy family also exhibits a high level of resilience – being able to adapt to new situations and react positively and constructively.
On the other hand, some of the challenges that seemed to have the most impact on the strength of the family unit included poor communication, imbalanced parenting responsibilities, and unhealthy relationships. Being aware of the strengths of a healthy family is often the first step in developing an environment that can foster a healthy family.
How Do Children Benefit from Healthy Family Relationships?
Among the many benefits of a healthy relationship is that children benefit from the structure and support provided from a thriving family. Such a family environment provides the sense of belonging and love that a child needs to become well-adjusted. More important than the size or composition of the family itself are the relationships that comprise the family unit.
A child who grows up in a healthy family is more likely to have healthy relationships outside the family. Likewise, the child is able to better engage in the world, develop new skills, interact with peers and adults, and become a more productive citizen.
No matter how you slice it, change starts at a home. A healthy family environment creates a space where children can thrive and develop into well-adjusted members of society. While several factors play a part in a healthy family dynamic, mutual appreciation and respect, togetherness and love, and approval and flexibility are among the most important. These family qualities create a culture in which children felt heard, loved, and supported in such a way as to allow them to ask questions, get to know their world, and become active contributors to not only the family but also society.