How healthy is your family?


Heather Jones
Extension Agent, 4-H and Youth Development
Do you believe you have a healthy family?

In this article, I challenge you to think not about the physical health of your family, but about the mental, emotional and relational health of you family. 

What characteristics do you associate with a healthy family? In the fast-paced and consumer-oriented society in which we live, many of the behaviors and qualities linked with healthy families are nearly nonexistent. 

In her book “Traits of a Healthy Family,” Dolores Curran discusses 15 traits that she found are present in healthy families. Curran surveyed 500 family professionals in order to compile the traits of a healthy family. Those included in her survey were pastors, teachers, doctors, Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders, social workers, and others. 

The traits Curran determined to be a part of healthy families are listed here.

1. The healthy family communicates and listens.
2. The healthy family affirms and supports one another.
3. The healthy family teaches respect for others.
4. The healthy family develops a sense of trust.
5. The healthy family has a sense of play and humor.
6. The healthy family exhibits a sense of shared responsibility.
7. The healthy family teaches a sense of right and wrong.
8. The healthy family has a strong sense of family in which rituals and traditions abound.
9. The healthy family has a balance of interaction among members.
10. The healthy family has a shared religious core.
11. The healthy family respects the privacy of one another.
12. The healthy family values service to others.
13. The healthy family fosters table time and conversation.
14. The healthy family shares leisure time.
15. The healthy family admits to and seeks help with problems.

I am positive your family does many of these things already. However, I am also positive there is room for growth. Focusing on these traits listed by Curran allows families to focus on what they are doing well, not what may be wrong with the family. Therefore, I encourage you to keep this list posted somewhere visible to all family members in your home and take action toward being a healthy family.

In my role as a 4-H Extension Agent, I see countless opportunities for families to exhibit several of the behaviors listed by Curran. 4-H is the youth (ages 5-18) educational component of Cooperative Extension; however, it is family oriented. 4-H families are provided programs and activities that foster communication, respect and affirmation. Those families participating in 4-H are also given numerous opportunities to play together and participate in community service together. Lastly, 4-H has strong traditions, which can become family traditions as family members spend some leisure time participating in 4-H.

Strong and healthy families create strong and healthy communities. Each family will have its own ways to work toward exhibiting the behaviors and qualities listed by Curran; 4-H is one outlet. It is my hope that you will do your part in creating strong and healthy communities by taking responsibility for your family using “Traits of a Healthy Family.”

Heather Jones works at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Cabarrus County Center and can be reached at 704-920-3310 or [email protected]

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