Children and adults benefit from being supported by a strong family unit, no matter how it is defined. This support can come from parents with a positive relationship, extended family and friends, and the community, says Joy Rouse, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Nick Stinnett and John D. Defrain from the University of Nebraska studied the characteristics of strong families, Rouse noted. The researchers found strong families shared six characteristics:
- Family members have a strong commitment to each other and make their relationships a high priority.
- They make it known that they appreciate each other.
- They talk to each other about small things and big issues.
- They spend time together.
- They believe in a greater power and have shared beliefs.
- Strong families cope with difficulties and crises effectively.
Building a strong family requires effort, Rouse said.
Identify people you can depend upon
“Part of building a strong family is identifying the people you can depend upon for support. This may be immediate or extended family or someone with whom you have a special connection,” said Rouse, who specializes in family life issues.
Support can come in many forms such as love, encouragement, money or advice.
“These people you depend upon form a safety net for you and your family. Be sure to tell them how important they are to you and your family,” Rouse said.
Set SMART goals
Setting goals can be part of making family a priority.
“It is important to set goals for a sense of purpose, to make good use of our time and to feel better about ourselves. Set goals that help you work toward what you and your family want,” Rouse said.
Working on these goals together will open communication between family members and help plan for coping with difficult situations.
A good formula to follow is to set goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant or realistic, and time-bound, Rouse said.
“Be specific about what you want. Make the goal measurable so you know when it has been achieved. Be realistic about the goal. Do you control what needs to happen for the goal to be a reality? Set a time for when you want to reach the goal. People who set goals and achieve them are less anxious, more focused, more confident, and happier and more satisfied,” Rouse said.
Take care of yourself
Adults who take care of themselves are more prepared to support children and others. This includes learning coping and stress management skills.
“If you are sick or stressed, how can you effectively care for your children and others? We cannot remove all stress from our lives, but we can manage the stress we have so we don’t hurt ourselves or our family members,” Rouse said.
“Know how stress affects your body physically and emotionally. Find ways to relieve stress that work for you. Remember, some stress can be good, as it moves us to act,” Rouse said.