It takes some adjusting to live in a family, and some people have difficulty making it work. Maybe that’s why comedian George Burns used to say, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” Sometimes that’s true. But it’s also true that more happiness can be found when we learn how to make our family life better, whether we live in a family or just visit relatives from time to time.
In her book Traits of a Healthy Family (1984), family consultant Dolores Curran drew on responses of more than 500 professionals who work with families of all kinds and shapes. A number of core values and behaviors surfaced in families these professionals generally consider to be healthy.
Here are a few of those top qualities. How many do you find in your family?
1. Families considered healthy practice good communication and listening. In fact, they work on this.
2. In these families, members experience plenty of affirmation and support. A migrant worker who often spends weeks away from home puts it like this: “Home is a place to go back to if things get rough out there.” It is where you are valued, affirmed, and loved.
3. When they are together, healthy families try to have a good time. Author Charlie Shedd says, “Whenever parents ask me, ‘How can I keep my children off drugs?’ I say, ‘Have fun.'” Evidently, the family that plays together, stays together.
4. These families share the work, too. There is a sense of shared responsibility. Everyone helps out; everyone pitches in.
5. There is a high level of trust in healthier families. The fastest way to drive a wedge between family members is to violate that trust.
6. Finally, these families usually share a common religious core and move toward similar spiritual goals.
No family is perfect — far from it! But families that work on these six traits will soon find themselves happier and healthier.