CHARACTERISTICS OF HEALTHY FAMILIES
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. (to view photo click on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3412621389/). I will be continuing my posts on child abuse and domestic violence throughout the month. Please be there for children whom you suspect are being abused. Sometimes, all you can do is hold out a loving hand and pray for them.
This post is part of a continuing series about child abuse and parenting. At the end of this article are links to the other posts on this subject. If the links do not work, go to www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com , click on the folder CHILD ABUSE or the folder DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, and scroll down the posts to find answers to your questions.
All the media coverage makes dysfunctional families easy to detect. But what markers identify healthy families? Why do some families “make it” while others do not?
No family is completely healthy. Nor is any family completely unhealthy. Rather, they fall on a continuum, able to move in either direction toward health or dysfunction. Healthy families have traits more on the healthy end of the continuum. What are these traits?
First, healthy families tend to make major life decisions based on objective data, rather than on emotions, feelings, or impulse. Family members seek answers that build family foundations rather than accepting only the answers that they want.
Second, healthy families know how to deal with and resolve problems. They use self-discipline in acting out their decisions. An example might help.
Most parents must at some point deal with a child who steals.
When this occurs, healthy families identify the behavior as a problem and deal with it. The child is appropriately disciplined: for example made to confront his/her victim and return the item or make restitution for the theft.
Unhealthy families deny that the behavior is a problem. The behavior is covered by excuses—after all, kids steal—or even blame the victim, who should not have made the item accessible to theft. The dysfunctional family may even consider theft as an acceptable behavior in their sub-culture, viewing it as a positive, as in “you got one over on them (the victim).”
Healthy families tend to be unifying with typical uplifting behaviors. Unhealthy families exhibit divisive, destructive behaviors, including yelling, name-calling, and put-downs. These actions tend to remove the focus from real problems, such as stealing and lying.
Communication, a problem in many relationships, can be a stumbling block in families. The two forms of communication are verbal and non-verbal. In healthy families, nonverbal and verbal communications match. In unhealthy families, these behaviors do not match. An example might help.
A child comments on an adult’s crying. The healthy family member will admit to the crying, may even admit to a problem—however, the problem is not shared inappropriately. In the unhealthy family, the members often deny the crying, and the presence of a problem, making the nonverbal communication (the emotional upset) not match the verbal communication (there is no problem).
In healthy families, roles are appropriate. Parents are parents, dealing with adult responsibilities. Children are not expected to care for the parents. In unhealthy families, children are treated like adults. Using the “adult’s crying” situation, in a healthy family, the parents acknowledge the existence of the emotion, even a problem. In the unhealthy family, the crying adult takes things one step further: they unload the problem on the child, putting the child in the role of an equal adult.
Healthy families, identifying a problem, seek outside counsel more readily than unhealthy families. They identify the problem, make every effort to resolve it, recognize when they need outside support, opinions, or aid, and evaluate/make use of valid options.
Healthy families have a strong value system backed by a solid faith foundation. They rely on a power higher than self.
Understanding age-appropriate behavior reduces the frustration of parenting and opens doors to new parenting skills.
Ask yourself: Would I talk to friends or other adults the way I talk to my children? Do I have another adult to discuss adult problems with?
In healthy families, the children are challenged, in the outside world, by values, teachings, ideas that are different than the family values, teachings and ideas. To strengthen them so they won’t follow attractive, yet destructive, values, give them a solid base to feel self-value; provide them with reasons for your teachings; live what you teach. Use outside resources. Pray for and with them.
When you have done all you can, accept that they must take responsibility by receiving your teaching.
Have your child draw happy and sad faces. Use words (brat, good job, stupid, dunce, I love you, shut up, disappear, be quiet). Have your child place the word by the face s/he feels it relates to. Discuss why the child made his/her choice.
Parents often find themselves doing for their children, spouse and community, forgetting that we ourselves need nurturing in order to have something to give to others. Take time to meet your own needs so that you will not resent serving others.
If you can contribute further to this post on healthy families, I invite you to post your input in the comment box below.
CHILD ABUSE SERIES—
DEVOTIONS ON ABUSE—
ARTICLES ON ABUSE—