What are your hopes, dreams and expectations of family life? What do you believe about families generally? What are your family’s strengths? How often do you identify and celebrate them?

It is our hope that the following indicators of family strength will not be thought of as “shoulds” — as a set of rules that must be followed or as a checklist by which you grade your own or other families. Rather, they are tools to aid family discussion and interaction and means of learning more about your family.

1. All families can be strong and healthy.

In 1950, the typical family consisted of a working father, an at-home mother and at least two children. But conditions have changed and so have families. Most still have the picture of the “ideal” family as the kind that existed in the 50s. The families of the 80s are different. Today, there are more single-parent, two-worker, step-parent and childless families. What makes a family strong does not depend on who makes up the family but how well they work together to accomplish necessary tasks, such as meeting individual member’s needs, teaching children what is expected of them and how to carry out required tasks, maintaining the family unit, and developing a shared set of meanings, values and goals. Nontraditional families, and that includes most of us, must learn new ways of accomplishing these tasks.

2. Healthy families spend “prime time” together.

Strong families set aside “prime time” to be together. By spending pleasant, positive time together, families build up a reserve of good feelings. When trouble comes it has to be shared with the family and resolved. If the problems are not balanced by shared pleasures, in time, people may come to associate family life with unpleasant rather than pleasant things. So when your life begins to be too fragmented, you might want to cross other things off your list and spend more time:

  • Talking together
  • Planning together
  • Working together
  • Playing together
  • Laughing together

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13 Tips to Strengthen Families