Families come in all shapes and sizes and aren’t exclusive to those with biological ties. It can expand to whoever plays an important part in caring for and raising a child. The village that helps you raise your child for instance would be family as would perhaps your best friend. Family doesn’t always have to be about blood. The quality of relationships within a family unit is by far more important than the composition and size. 

My parents only have one sibling each, however I grew up with more Aunties and Uncles than I could list here. Their friends took on that role without being prompted. They teased me for having boyfriends, listened to my fears, and helped me when my mum was away, and my dad didn’t know how to deal with a 13-year old’s cycle. They also came to the rescue when both my brother and I were down with the chickenpox and bored out of our minds. We knew we were loved by them. 

Now, if you ask my children, they have ten aunts and uncles. Doesn’t sound strange until you understand that my husband is an only child and I have one brother. They see our closest friends as family and have given them the title of “aunty” and “uncle” It was never really prompted. It just happened. 

It all breaks down to “secure attachment”, which was pioneered by John Bowlby, an English psychologist. Secure attachment begins when a child is young and boils down to how our first experience with relationships can affect our future relationships. He theorised that early attachment experience creates ‘internal working models” that are the templates for how relationship function. 

It also sets up foundations for trust and empathy and prepares your child for later on in life independence. Our interactions with family help us work out who we are and where we fit in the world. 

So, what are the foundation of a healthy family unit?
These are called “The Family Strengths Inventory” and it outlines six main qualities:

  1. Strong commitment to each other 
  2. Express appreciation and affection
  3. Enjoy spending time together and spend time regularly
  4. Manage stress and crisis together and well
  5. Have consistent values and ethics
  6. Enjoy positive and effective communication 

“Healthy Families” knowledge module, found on our ParentalEQ App, is all about the discovery of building blocks and the qualities of healthy families as studied by psychologists as well as understanding and the benefits of having a healthy family unit. 

So, what are some tips for maintaining a healthy family unit? 

It is surprisingly easy. 

  • Be a positive example – they will think of it as the norm if you are doing what you expect them to do
  • Create boundaries and be clear about them to your child – this helps them to know what to expect as well as create their own boundaries when they are older 
  • Make time to communicate – this includes voicing your own concerns/emotions as well as listening to theirs. 
  • Stay calm in challenging situations – it can be tough, believe me I understand, but staying calm will show that anger or yelling doesn’t solve everything. It can also go along way to build trust and a safety net for when they are older. 
  • Learn to balance – as I am sure a lot of us learnt last year, a healthy balance between work and family can do wonders for stress levels and closeness as a family 
  • Carve out family time – whether it be a regular movie night (like us) or sitting around the table at dinner time, having regular family time helps create stronger bonds
  • Praise your children – everyone loves a bit of praise and kids are no different. Showing them specific praise for something they did right or well shows that you are paying attention to them and that you value their choices
  • Let your children be more involved in family decisions – letting them help make decisions (depending on age) and be involved will make them feel valued and strengthen your connection as well as help them feel more comfortable making decisions when they are older

Healthy family units make a child feel secure and starts them on the right path to becoming strong, resilient, and confident adults. They will discover stronger and more meaningful relationships and enjoy a more realistic sense of self as well as a sense of belonging. A healthy family unit creates a healthy home environment that can be a place that children can go to refuel and relax after a hard day – no matter what their age is. 

Afterall, home will forever be where the heart is. 

From the heart of the family by Casey Luxford

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