Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Functional Family....What is that???

Co-dependency, functional, dysfunctional are all words that many of us have heard for years and yet I think we really do need to revisit what these words mean.  We live in a word that is so confusing in so many ways but especially in having an understanding of what a "healthy" functional family looks like or for that matter what a "healthy" functional person looks like.  Is there such a thing???

Well, we will never be perfect or even totally functional in this life but we can at least work toward at least knowing what functional looks like and work toward being the healthiest person you can be.

So....back to the question.....What is a functional family?   A family is a system in which each person's behavior affects all the other members.  This family unit is characterized by a sense of family wholeness.  Each family member has a feeling of belonging which contributes to their personal self-esteem.  They learn they can trust, feel, and talk about many - if not all - the issues in their lives.

One of the most important things we can learn from our family is how to have healthy relationships.  Three skills are needed to have a healthy relationship and they are the abilities to feel, to trust and to talk.

How are these skills taught:
1.  By modeling consistency and dependability trust is learned
2.  By respecting and talking about emotions, hurts and joys, we learn it's ok to express feeling.
3.  By taking time to listen and value what is said we learn how to talk in a open and healthy way.

A family should teach these truths:
  • That my worth is based upon who I am and I am loved and I belong
  • That my worth is not based on my performance: I will be loved even if I make a mistake.
God is the ultimate functional parent.  He loves us with unconditional love.  He says, "I love you because of who you are and I will continue to love you no matter what"

So bottom line:
1 Healthy families establish healthy priorities.

2 Healthy families ask for--and give--respect.
Members in healthy families know respect is a two-way street. In order to receive respect; you must first give it.

3 Healthy families communicate.

Happy families talk and listen to each other. They respect the other person's point of view, even when it differs from their own. In healthy families, members practice "active listening" says Mary Durkin, Ph.D., author, lecturer and mother of seven. In her book, Making Your Family Work, she says the following five qualities are common to active listeners.

* Giving the other person opportunities to express ideas and feelings--without interrupting.

* Making an honest attempt to understand these ideas and feelings.

* Setting aside preconceived opinions about the other person.

* Showing respect for the other person's right to hold a view different from yours.

* Demonstrating your appreciation for the effort the other person is making.

4 Healthy families have a sense of play and humor.Educator Dolores Curran surveyed 550 family professionals--teachers, clergy, pediatricians, social workers, counselors, leaders of volunteer organizations--asking them to list the top 15 traits common to healthy families. A sense of play and humor was number five on the list. In her book, Traits of a Healthy Family, Curran notes, "Good families seem able to keep their work and play in perspective. Like the people in the early agricultural communities, when they work, they work hard and when they play, they play hard. They feel no guilt when they reward themselves by relaxing. A sense of humor in the family also keeps things in perspective and works as an antidote to drudgery, depression and conflict within families."

5 Healthy families foster responsibility.Strong, secure families stress a sense of personal responsibility and obligation toward others.

6 Healthy families instill strong moral and spiritual foundations.
Healthy families find ways to cultivate strong spiritual and moral foundations. Some of the ways to do this is to find ways to teach good character traits to children through volunteering and helping others.  Being involved in church and/or groups that instill Godly values and principles all contribute to a healthy foundation.

Next post: The Dysfunctional Family

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