The recent census tells us that families are changing in California. The numbers of married couples without children, single parents, unmarried couples and same-sex couples are soaring. Traditional nuclear families are on the decline.
But regardless of the marital status or genders of household members, each family has similar needs. Certain qualities are required for every unit to succeed.
Commitment is the implicit promise that the family is a team. It says, “We are in this together. Nothing is going to tear us apart.”
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Commitment is openly expressed when a couple is married. When couples are not yet ready to marry or choose not to marry, they may still state and demonstrate their commitment on a regular basis. Whether a relationship is legal or not, it’s imperative that members share the primary goal of making their relationship work.
Commitment is the cornerstone of any relationship. It is the foundation upon which all other emotions and actions build. If commitment is lacking, members of the relationship are unsure about their purpose and ultimate fate.
Because half of all marriages end in divorce, people in relationships are often reluctant to commit to one another. Unfortunately, this very reticence is often the downfall of the relationship. Both members must be deeply committed for a marriage to survive.
Stability is the solid framework of a household. It’s the underlying rules, policies and behaviors that guarantee a steady and unwavering lifestyle for its participants. Stability doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it’s the ongoing and trustworthy actions of the adult leaders that lead to a feeling of security.
Stability is developed when key players follow daily routines, such as holding a steady job, picking up your child at the designated time, helping children with their homework or preparing regular meals.
Stability is important for everyone, but it is essential for the health and well-being of youngsters. Boys and girls who grow up in stable environments earn higher grades in school, foster closer friendships, learn better eating habits and possess more self-control.
Respect is the personal care and regard family members display toward one another. It is demonstrated in a wide variety of ways. A father respects his toddler when he sets gentle, clear, age-appropriate limits. A woman respects her mate when she compliments him in front of the children. An adult daughter is respectful to her parents when she uses polite language and obeys their rules. A husband shows respect for his wife when he is able to control his temper.
Respect shows that everyone in the household is worthwhile. It says, “I care about you.” Children raised in respectful homes have healthier self-esteem and make better choices regarding drug use, sexual behavior and life partners. Adults living in respectful environments feel happier and less stressed.
Appreciation is the recognition and value of each member’s contribution to the well-being of the family. Successful households rely on a cornucopia of divergent skills. IRAs must be funded. Pets must be taken to the vet. A diabetic’s insulin must be managed. The Honda requires maintenance. Each of these jobs is integral to the family. None can be alleviated or overlooked. Children gain a sense of appreciation when they are given chores and responsibilities that add to the welfare of the family.
Functioning households recognize all the duties and their value to the running of the clan. Members are quick to say thank you for others’ efforts. When family members feel appreciated, they feel adored and competent. They understand they’re part of a larger unit that couldn’t survive without them.
All households have disagreements. They’re unavoidable when two or more people live under the same roof. The success of the family depends on how well the group handles its differences.
When disagreements are discussed respectfully and when workable solutions can be reached, family members feel satisfied, and the family unit thrives. If, on the other hand, problems erupt into angry rages or participants’ wishes are ignored, then members are apt to be frustrated. Their needs don’t get met. They don’t feel cherished or valued.
Of course, some issues have no answers. There’s no compromise in sight. At those times, wise family members know when to back away from the conflict and keep their mouths shut. The ultimate health of the family depends on it.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com