10 Traits of highly effective families

Our termly talks by our LAD Centre therapists are such a wonderful inspiration to the parents and staff who are able to attend. This week Sia Rees and Rebecca Simpson, both Counselling Psychologists, presented a talk based on a Willow Creek Community Church podcast, which they adjusted and added to, on the topic of ‘Ten Traits of Highly Effective Families’. Here is a brief summary:

Today’s families have changed, many are blended families, with divorce or separation common. There are also increasing number of parents who travel a lot and more families with grandparents living with them. None of these things make a family any more or less meaningful or successful. The make-up of the family is not what counts – it’s what you do within your family, whatever the make-up is.  Here are ten traits that are seen in highly effective families:

1) Every person in the family feels treasured

This can be through the use of words and also actions. Set an example to your child in how to verbalize feelings: tell them how loved they are, what you like about them, what you’re proud of. Use birthdays and special occasions as opportunities to validate your children and don’t forget the daily actions like hugs, cuddles, high fives – whatever you can think of that grows a sense of them being special. Psychologist Steve Biddulph says, “Give children understanding and time, not criticism and money.”

2) Open communication

We need to be able to say difficult things graciously. Open communication is something you intentionally work on, and learning to “speak the truth in love to one another” starts with Mum and Dad. Listening is an important part of open communication and we know that boys talk better when sitting shoulder to shoulder rather than direct eye to eye. 

3) Celebrating uniqueness

Most families are made up of individuals who are complete polar opposites! The goal is to discover and encourage the uniqueness of each individual and to celebrate difference. This is really difficult because as much as we don’t want to admit it, we have preconceived ideas of what we want for our children. We have to try to let go of what we hope they will be, but rather facilitate who they are meant to be!

4) Feeling safe

Healthy families realise that some actions are so deeply harmful to an individual in the family that they need to be outlawed, for example abuse of any kind. The family needs to be a space of emotional safety in which you can create connections, rather than alienation or shame. 

5) Common faith

A strong, shared spiritual base is a foundation that can guide your family. It creates security and clarity, in a way it sets the ‘rules’ for the family. If you’re not especially spiritual as a family then work hard on creating a shared family ethos and teach your children those values from as early as possible. 

6) Respect

Parents should display respect and acceptance as a core value right from the start. 90% of communication is non-verbal and your children will treat people the way you do – think about how you treat kitchen staff, grounds staff, waiters or those who are physically and mentally challenged. Children learn acceptance from their parents – encourage them to be curious about difference and to stand up against racism or any person who is disrespecting another person.

7) Responsibility

You do your children no favors when you give them no responsibilities. As much as your children dislike responsibility, it is such an integral and important part of their growth. They need chores and they need to learn not to be takers. Healthy families instill responsibility in each other, without overloading your children or making them slaves! You need to access the amount of responsibility that is age appropriate and every year it will shift. Not only are chores important life skills, but they also instill a sense of dedication to their family, which is good both for the family and for the individual. 

8) Learn to play together

Play brings the family together and we learn about each other while playing. Playing removes stress, calms everyone down and makes everyone laugh. Whether the play is riding bikes, camping trips or board games, what matters is to invite engagement and get onto the same level as your child. 

9) Celebrate meaningful rituals and traditions

When you think back to your childhood, often what stands out are the little traditions and rituals. They are the little patterns we develop together – some come from your childhood, some we create together, some your children will create. The value behind rituals and traditions is a feeling of security and continuity into the future. 

10) Seek help

We all have points of tension and rough patches no matter how healthy our family is. Families are so fragile and it is so important to fix things when they go wrong. Work on creating a culture of open communication and remember that it takes a village to raise a child – talk to someone, go to a class, see a counselor, go to your church – seek help when you need it.

Highly effective families are those that have deep, meaningful and lasting connections. They are like an island of safety amidst the stormy sea of life. 

Thank you to Willow Creek Community Church for such a valuable podcast as the basis for this talk!