What are the characteristics of a healthy family? This question has long been studied and observed for many generations. But what really defines a healthy family? Emotional closeness? Time spent together? Let’s unravel some common questions when it comes to family life, and what you can do to nurture a healthy family within your household.

what defines a healthy family

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What makes a strong and healthy family?

I was sitting at the pool as I watched my son swim the other day, trying to fit every bit of fun into the last days of summer. As I was soaking up the sun, I noticed a family sitting behind me. They had about ten years on our family with two boys and a girl who were well established in their tween years.

As I listened to their conversations, I realized how different we were from them. They were animated, most likely all extroverts, with an energy about them that didn’t seem to quit.

The dad was in his 40’s, yet dressed like his tween son, with his trucker hat slightly tilted, and looked like the kind of guy who would make a good youth pastor. You know the type.

The difference between them and us wasn’t so much so that we would never be friends, but different enough that I couldn’t imagine myself a part of their family. I would find myself exhausted within 10 minutes.

It brought on a conversation my husband and I had about how mind-blowing it is that families tolerate and live with one another for however long they do. More astonishingly yet, a man and woman are gathered in holy matrimony and expected to not only survive but thrive in a loving and monogamous relationship for the rest of their lives.

I mean, old couples who are married for 30+ years should be getting gold medals, not the glorified movie stars and NFL athletes.

But for some reason, this unity and bond work—most times. Your family is your family, and being a part of another just wouldn’t do. You would feel uncomfortable and misplaced like you did when you attended your very first sleepover. I remember that feeling. It still gives me shivers thinking about it.

Families are the backbone of our youth that shape our perspectives and mold our perceptions.

If a family unit is not functioning healthily, the context by which we operate will be warped.

When one can nurture and protect a family unit, they will be investing in their children’s mental and physical well-being as well as their own.

If you’re looking for a creative way to connect with your kids on a deeper level, check out this incredible dinner talk card game – OUR MOMENTS. Conversation starters that will resonate with your kids for emotional bonding and a great neutral way for them to open up to you. With questions like “If you were a superhero, who would you be?” and “Do you feel like you could tell me anything?” you will find yourself laughing and uniquely connecting as a family.

7 Daily Habits of a Strong and Healthy Family

healthy family eating a meal

1. Healthy families eat one meal per day together

I have always been grateful to my mom for instilling in our family a tradition of eating meals together in the evenings. It’s with these meals we were able to share our day’s contents and just be together. With the togetherness, families can truly get to know one another and create a sense of camaraderie.

Check out this convenient Magnetic Dry Erase Menu Board for Fridge to help you master meal planning, and keep yourself accountable!

healthy family definition

2. Healthy families don’t have unlimited or unmonitored screen time

Recent studies found that some mental health issues are directly related to unrestricted and unmonitored screen time. Read more about that here.

Parents who allow this expose their children to violence, cyberbullying, and a myriad of age-inappropriate content. I’ve recently partnered with an incredible company called BARK to help parents monitor their child’s online activity without invading their privacy. Check out my recent review of the software that is easily downloaded on any device your child is using. Below is a short video on how it works!

On the same note, parents should also have no screen time zones, as to not interfere with quality and intentional time with their kids. People are becoming less aware of their children’s needs and more aware of the contents of their smartphones.

If you want to beat the odds of mental health illnesses and feelings of neglect from your children, then limit screen time for the whole family. You’ll thank me later.

If you’re interested in receiving a FREE PRINTABLE SCREEN TIME CHECKLIST to help your child balance screen time without you having to yell at them, check this out.

Related Post: Emotionally healthy children have parents who do these 7 things.

family talking outside

3. Healthy families communicate their feelings with one another

When your home is a safe place for you to be who you are and share your heart, it will benefit everyone. When families can learn healthy communication, resolve arguments, and so on, it will instill in the children the skills necessary to have a healthy family life with their children.

If you don’t currently have this, then perhaps think about going and seeing a counselor who can help you all navigate your feelings. It’s crucial, especially for children, to be able to share their emotions with their parents, as you can be the one to help and guide them through dealing with negative feelings.

Check out My Life Journals for Kids if you want a way for your child to learn to better express themselves. Journaling is an amazing tool that has benefits such as improving their writing skills, processing Little and BIG feelings, and so much more.

4. Healthy families go in nature and play together

Our family is all about hiking, biking, camping, adventuring. Some of our greatest memories are when we are out in nature. I find it sad that kids aren’t experiencing the great outdoors as they should. It’s robbing them of their childhood.

They are becoming more fascinated with creating their own universes in video games than exploring the one they are living in. I’m no advocate of sheltering children from everything, including video games, but you can use their desire to play them as teachable moments on how to have self-control and not let it become their entire world.

Sometimes, especially in the dead of winter, I struggle with the “getting in nature” habit. If you live in a temperate climate, the colder days are sometimes, for me, an excuse to let my kids have way more screen time than average. But lately, we’ve found an incredible game/book that has given us WAY more ideas of fun things to do together. Check it out!  

The Adventure Challenge Family Edition. Scratch off a new challenge whenever you decide to play and get the most innovative ideas of things to do with your kids. Document your memories in your book and keep it forever. They will LOVE IT. So will you.

Being in nature does amazing things to your brain, calms anxiety, and so much more.

You can teach your child skills that they will use for the rest of their lives, like carving (check out this awesome wooden knife to start them off when they’re young), starting a fire, survival techniques—all things most kids don’t have a clue about.

healthy family habits

5. Healthy families have schedules, boundaries, consequences, and CHORES

I am someone who struggles WITH having a schedule but also struggles WITHOUT having one. Lately, I have realized that no matter how inconvenient it may seem, when a schedule is in place, it helps our family.

Especially in the summer, our sons need to know that we will make time for them and when that will be. Both parents working from home is hard for a now 10 and 2-year-old to understand. They think, well, you’re home. Why aren’t you able to play with me? ALL the time? Check out this post about setting healthy boundaries in the home.

Implementing chores is another amazing tool to teach your child responsibility and follow through. Our rule is that our older son has to finish all his weekly chores and homework to get ANY screen time on the weekends. He uses this chore chart to help him keep track.

healthy family traits

6. Healthy families find ways to be physically active together

Creating emotional bonds together is essential, but there is yet another characteristic of a healthy, thriving family, and that’s their physical health. Instilling in our children a sense of respect for our bodies can be nurtured from when they are little. Limiting sugar, going on daily walks, or taking bike rides are ways you can implement healthy.

Another way to help your children see the benefit of a healthy physical lifestyle is to have them cook with you. Show them how to chop up veggies, the nutrition they give your body, and why you should eat them. Cooking with one another not only creates a fun activity to do together, but it also gives your children the knowledge of where food comes from and how to respect their bodies with what they eat.

healthy family laughing

7. Healthy families don’t expect perfection and have grace for one another

Our family is of the Christian faith, so our views on love and grace come from that. We don’t want to expect perfection from our children because we know that we ourselves are imperfect. We show our kids that by apologizing to them when we wrong them, and modeling healthily how to handle failure. (Well, we aren’t perfect in that, either.)

But, everything we teach our kids from our faith in God is never forced. We believe that it’s their decision to follow God. All we can do is guide and encourage them or answer any questions they have.

Related post: 6 Signs Your Parenting is Too Strict

It’s with our faith that we draw our actions on how we treat one another: We love one another as we love ourselves. We put other people’s needs before our own. We share our hearts so that we can better be there for one another. We take responsibility for our actions and teach humility of character. We also make an effort to pray and have Bible reading before bed, with an age-appropriate Bible that my son has LOVED growing up. Our older son has also loved these devotionals for kids by Louis Giglio.

This looks different for every family. But what I think the most important lesson here is that you’re not expecting perfection. Kids can get quickly overwhelmed at the thought of pleasing their parents. For us to expect perfect grades or behavior is unrealistic and will end up exasperating our children.

A family bond is one so strong that when fostered and nurtured the right way, will mold mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy people.

Positive parenting tools for every parent 

Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation

I’ve recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child’s device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!

Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below. 

Book List for Kids and Parents

Check out my recommended books for parenting

Book list to teach kids about racial diversity. 

Journaling for Kids

When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination. 

Chores for Kids

Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge

Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option. 

Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer

If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”

Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids

Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment. 

We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences. 

Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!

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Hillary Gruener is a wife, mother, writer, and musician. If she's not at her desk writing content on family life, she's adventuring the world with her husband and two boys.

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