Eight ingredients for a strong family
Family & Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) has published a recent fact sheet on Family Strengths (FRSA Information Factsheet November 2012) drawn from an interesting Australian study on the qualities that make families strong.*
1. Communication: strong families have frequent, open and honest interactions
2. Togetherness: a sense of belonging and connectedness. This can be the knowledge that we belong to a special club or tribe or team.
3. Shared activities: families who do things together like playing games, sport or even reading to each other. I have three children: two avid readers and the sporty one who couldn’t tell the difference between a book and a boomerang. Connection can emerge from simply reading the sports pages in the daily newspaper to each other and if you are really pushed – even the TV guide.
4. Acceptance: strong families share some values but respect individuality and difference.
5. Affection: strong families are interested in each other often using small rituals which reflect love and concern. In our family we regularly sign birthday cards with the salutation “To my chudda”. Meaningless in any other family but in ours it grew from the two year olds early attempts at speech when he regularly saluted family members with “you my chudda”. Six months later when his language developed it was expanded to “we-lub-ee-chudda”. “Chudda” has lasted the distance as a significant landmark for affectionate connection in our family.
6. Support: strong families are comfortable in both offering and seeking support which is encouraging and reassuring.
7. Commitment: individuals within the family are loyal and dedicated to the family as a whole.
8. Resilience: strong families have the ability to bounce back from adversity.
Family structure makes no difference to the effectiveness of these qualities and applies to couples without children, stepfamilies and single parents as well as coupled parents with children. We need routines that support bonding in families like shared meals and making time to be together and the willingness to hear each other and respect our differences if we are to create strong families.
*Robinson E & Parker R (2008) Prevention and early intervention in strengthening families and relationships: Challenges and implication, Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse, Issues Paper No. 2.