8 Characteristics of Healthy Families
Playdough sits on my kitchen counter. The purple bits scattered all over, blue chunks on the floor, the pink tucked into it’s respective container, but the lid is nowhere to be seen.
All these pieces of Playdough have something in common. They are all drying out.
The benefit of dry bits is that I can vacuum them easier. The dough inside the container however will probably be useless. Apparently the dolls needed a wardrobe change, so my 4-year-old migrated downstairs, leaving my kitchen counter as I found it.
To keep the Playdough soft and pliable it needs to stay sealed; it needs care and attention.
In the same way, relationship and connection within our families is guarded and protected by our grace-filled, intentional consideration. Unless there is a significant issue to address, we move along with the ebb and flow of life, without giving family life a second thought. Perhaps we aren’t sure about what we ought to be ‘doing’ in the midst of it all, or everyone seems to be getting along fine.
We’ve learned how to “do” family from the families we grew up in. There may have been so many good things to glean, but on the flip side, maybe you learned what not to do. My prayer is that this will be as an opportunity to reflect on our own family practices, to strengthen our relationships and grow together, for the glory of God, and the good of others.
Is your family committed to each other?
My dictionary app defines commitment as the quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity. For the family, that includes the marriage, parent-child relationships, and siblings. There may be the same arguments that come up day after day, clashes of perspective, or differing opinions. The most natural response may be to throw up our hands in exhaustion, and give up, weary of the struggle. Instead, we could let each other know our love persists, even in the midst of differences, and that we are going to see our relationship through.
How can you show your commitment to your family today?
Do you appreciate each other?
This may sound simple, but it can be truly difficult. Recognizing the value different personalities and perspectives is a challenge, because it’s not the way we see it. There are traits of our personalities that are unique to each of us, yet at times, cause friction to others. In his sovereignty, God designed your family, with each piece of the puzzle, to fan into flame both the goodness and grittiness, to help us grow in our walk with him, for “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17).
How can you show appreciation for your family members today?
Willingness to Spend Time Together.
Do you spend time together as a family?
This is a huge challenge in the midst of busy lives, when everyone is constantly moving, and mostly scattering, in different directions. Planting seeds of family time in the chaos is an intentional choice. Planning a family dinner, or outing, to enjoy the moments we have to together is important, and builds memories and connection in our relationships.
Could you plan for family time this week?
How’s your communication lately?
Communication in relationships is a sorely needed skill to learn. Typically, we have a very easy time venting our words to each other, but a much more difficult time with listening. James admonishes, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). To truly listen requires us to stop the inner dialogue in our own head, to sit down with them, look at them, and hold onto the judgements we so quickly make. Listening means that we seek to understand what they are saying, developing a curiosity, which leads us to respond with questions, rather than statements or answers.
How can you seek to listen to your family members today?
Is faith a part of your family?
Even in the secular world, religious traditions promote health and well-being of families. Connection to our church communities through hospitality, service and participation give us hope and purpose, faith in Christ gives meaning to our life. Jonathan Edwards writes, “every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church,” a place where we model the gospel, as we confess our sin, experience reconciliation, and unite together in praise, worship and sanctification.
How has your faith impacted your family?
Encouragement of Individuals.
How do you encourage the members of your family?
We talked about diversity in families, and how we are each uniquely created by God. As we see our children, and our spouse, as ones who have been given gifts to serve, a role we are privileged to carry is one that builds each of them up. This is particularly important during times of change and transition, as children enter adolescence, as mom’s return to work, or during a move.
Are there ways you can encourage your family today?
Does your family know who does what?
This doesn’t mean there is a ‘right’ way to manage a home, or a ‘right’ person to wash the dishes, vacuum, or take out the trash. Talking about the responsibilities of the home as a discussion you have together, helps promote understanding between everyone in the family, and gives opportunity to distribute tasks, so that each one knows how they help the family function.
What are the roles of your family members?
Ability to Deal With Crises in a Positive Way.
Ever experienced a crisis?
The resounding answer to this one is, yes. After 2020 we have all certainly known what it’s like to have life turned upside down. Even otherwise, we know that illness creeps in, friendships at school are challenging, and chaos jumps into our lives at unpredictable times. When these seasons arise, we begin to notice so much about ourselves and how we navigate stress.
Bob Kellemen writes that, “God’s “parenting manual” has one commandment: Parent, be Christlike by being God-dependent” and crisis is a resounding opportunity to model and practice dependence on the Lord. It’s not a choice easily made, for in the turmoil of our circumstances, up from down may be hardly distinguishable. However, we can daily commit and trust the Lord, for “when I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).
Perhaps you are in the middle of a crisis right now? How can you practice dependence on the Lord?
The lives of our families are dynamic and ever-changing as the kids grow up, and life changes. These characteristics are not a checklist to the perfect family, but rather qualities we learn to develop, for our own maturity and those of our kids.
The purpose: to keep our family life from drying out, and getting thrown to the wayside.
There’s no perfect family, but we learn to love and appreciate the one we are in, as we take one step forward each day to glorify God in how we live and love each other.