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? Affection? Met expectations? Time spent together? Family rituals and traditions? 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, even in difficult times.
The Healthy Family’s Strongest Enemy
Did you know that a recent study found that the average family only spends 37 minutes of quality time together per day? That’s a sad reality when we consider the average person spends 3 hours of their day on their smartphone.
Being a part of or managing a healthy family is a challenge, especially in this digital age. I sometimes daydream while I’m gardening about a simpler time. One that would allow me and my kids to spend the entire day outside, living off the land, exploring the nature surrounding us, not worrying about the contents of our devices.
And while that’s my ultimate goal someday — to have a homestead — completely eliminating technology is not the answer.
Technology isn’t all that bad, as long as you know how to set clear boundaries for the family that protect your time spent together from becoming evenings of staring into your phones. But, as a parenting educator, if I were to sum up the biggest challenge for parents these days, it would revolve around technology in some way.
Whether it’s video game addiction, the selfie effect, cyberbullying, social media addiction, there is always something trying to steal our children’s attention away from their families. And if you, the parent, are ALSO connected to your device in a way that captures your attention more than your children, well. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Families need one another; they are the backbone of our youth that shape our perspectives and mold our perceptions. Families give us a sense of belonging, help us establish moral values, and give us reassurance that someone always has our back. At least, that’s what a healthy and stable family should do.
I’ve made it my job, as a parent, to make sure my kids live their life outside of technology and have positive interactions as a family.
Technology can be a good thing. But if there isn’t family time, stability, mutual trust in the home, boundaries, emotional connection, and an overall healthy family system, then technology will win in your child’s mind.
You see, your kids will be influenced by something. And if it’s not you, it will be their peers, their computers, their gaming console, or whatever makes them feel valued. If they don’t feel valued by you, they will seek it elsewhere.
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.
Perfect families don’t exist. But when parents can recognize that their kids simply need them — to care, to listen, to teach, and to connect — then their family can be well on their way to functioning healthily.
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 and Traits of a Healthy Family
1. When all family members eat one meal per day together
The demands of daily life can often distract us from spending quality time with one another. But since everyone has to eat, a great way to connect is during a meal.
I have always been grateful to my mom for instilling in our family traditions of eating together in the evenings. With these moments, we were able to share about our day — our accomplishments, our struggles — and learn good communication skills and feel a sense of trust with one another.
With togetherness, families can truly get to know one another and create an environment of camaraderie, humor, empathy, mutual support, mutual trust, and so much more.
Check out this convenient Magnetic Dry Erase Menu Board for Fridge to help you master meal planning, and keep yourself accountable!
2. Healthy families don’t have unlimited or unmonitored screen time
Like I mentioned above, parents need to pay close attention to technology‘s impact on their homes.
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.
On the same note, parents should also have no screen time zones, as to not interfere with quality and intentional time with their kids. Unfortunately, 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.
3. Healthy family relationships communicate their feelings with one another and show their appreciation
When your home is a safe place for your family to be who they are and share their heart, it will benefit everyone. Your kids will feel a sense of belonging and that they can tell you everything — their weaknesses, their struggles, the little things that brought them joy.
A regular part of family life should be practicing healthy communication, allowing imperfections, resolving arguments, etc. In addition, it will instill in your children the skills necessary to have healthy relationships for the rest of their lives.
If you don’t currently have this, perhaps think about seeing a counselor or parenting coach who can help you all navigate your feelings. It’s crucial, especially for children, to be able to share their emotions with their parents. An effective family thrives on mutual trust. So when your kids share the hard stuff with you, reward them, don’t punish or shame them.
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. Family relationships get stronger in nature and when you play together
Our family is all about hiking, biking, camping, gardening, and 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, I struggle with the “getting in nature” habit, especially in the dead of winter. 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.
This little Bush Craft Book is an excellent incentive for older kids. We also like to watch the show Alone together with our older son.
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 3-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.
Here are some other helpful posts about establishing family values, setting boundaries, and healthy discipline.
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.
Such activities that help your child see what their bodies are capable of and how food and exercise play into that is an essential characteristic of a healthy family.
7. Healthy families are full of encouragement and don’t expect perfection
We believe in God, so many of our family values stem from that, like our views on love and grace. 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
With our faith, we draw our actions on how we treat one another: We love one another as we love ourselves. We are generous and not selfish. 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 Louie Giglio.
This looks different for every family. But 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 AND us.
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
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 very helpful 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!