By Leslie Santana, LMFT
Families come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and tightly knitted; others big and international. In my experience working with families, one thing that I have learned to be true is that all have unique strengths. Here are five qualities that stand out in strong and resilient families.
- Families that laugh together, stay together
Positive experiences, no matter how small or insignificant, really contribute to overall family health. Small moments of laughter and fun strengthen and reinforce the life-lasting bond between family members.
- Wiggle room is key
Strong families allow each other to develop individually, which may include making mistakes. This means creating boundaries between family members – not stepping in all the time to “rescue” each other. While it may sound counterintuitive, only by giving family members some space, do they feel unconditionally supported because they know you trust them enough to let them learn through experience. And nothing is more important than children to feel supported when they are exploring and learning about this chaotic and sometimes confusing world.
- Independent friendships strengthen family relationships
Whether you are a mother, grandmother, uncle, son, daughter, or father, we are all equally human and many times need a shoulder to lean on. Having friendships and hobbies outside of the family provides space and perspective to handle stressors more effectively. Families who have poor support systems tend to have difficulty self-regulating because they’re missing foundational coping skills – friends and outlets.
- Strong families face change together
When looking at a family and trying to understand the core impairment, it is important to look at how that family manages both tension and trauma. Each individual in the family has an important role in handling stress, and sometimes the roles can shift with changes. Families that tend to flow together through changes contributes to the strength of the family. What can hurt a family is when family members deny or resist a change that is inevitable.
5. Communication is king
Strong and resilient families tend to have an attuned communication styles with each other. Healthy families are able to do two things interchangeably in the home. First, they are able to communicate their needs, thoughts, and emotions in a regulated and safe way. Second, they are able to listen to a family member’s needs, thoughts, and emotions and then respond appropriately.
Leslie is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has been working at Hillsides for a little over two years. She is an outpatient therapist at the Bienvenidos Family Resource Center, East Los Angeles, and a Brand Ambassador for Hillsides. She enjoys her co-workers and all the wonderful children she works with.