Happy, healthy family is possible
During the last several years much research has been conducted in order to determine what produces healthy families. Studying healthy families can often help us understand what causes problems in those families that seem always to be in a crisis.
The Jones family starts their day off with some kind of fight between family members almost every morning. Jimmy, a 10-year-old, begins to yell at his mother when he canít find his socks. She screams back that she canít help because the bacon is about to burn. She screams again to tell him that he had better hurry or he is going to be late to school again. Her voice accents the word again. Little Susie, just 4, wanders in and accidentally closes the door on the catís talk. Everyone scolds her so soundly that she begins crying and doesnít want to eat breakfast. Joe, the father, had already turned back over and gone back to sleep when his alarm went off. Since the commotion awakened him, he is not yelling and screaming for everyone to help him get ready so he wonít be late to work. Shaving hurriedly, he cuts himself which further slows him down as he tries to take care of the wound. His mood for the day isnít good. The family leaves for work and school with tears and angry words.
Later this same day, after school and work, the family gathers at home. The crises and fighting seem to pick right up where they had left off. Now Mother is upset and is berating one of the children for a bad report card. Another child tells her he somehow lost his lunch kit before lunch time, and is so hungry that he canít wait for dinner, still an hour away. Mother knows the family budget wonít allow room for a new lunch kit, and the note on the report card indicates that if the grades donít improve a promotion to the next grade will be withheld.
With the family pot about to boil again, father enters the door and whole family converges on him with their problems. As he listens to their weeping and wailing, his bad mood returns. He thinks to himself that heíll start back tomorrow with his old pattern of having a few drinks with the boys after work although in the past this caused a great deal of difficulty because he frequently came home late. Then, having missed supper and having guilty feelings, he was never in the mood to spend any quality time with the family.
Why couldnít the Jones family Ė middle class, employed with no really severe problems to cope with Ė become a healthy, happy family? And the answer is, with a little planning and an emphasis on the positive things in their family life, they could.
One of the most important features of a good day is starting it off with a positive note. Screaming, shouting and yelling always serve to heighten tension at an already busy time of the day. A concerted effort to maintain positive communication should be made.
The Joneses should replace the yelling, screaming and negative comments with calm and positive statements. Even a little humor injected in an injured catís tail and a giant band-aid for a cut chin would be in order. Setting the tone of the day and beginning with a good breakfast heighten the probability that the rest of the day will go well too.
At the same time, ending the day with a happy, peaceful note is important for quiet, restful sleep. Having a family meal on a regular basis each evening is a sign of a healthy family. Eating in front of the TV or in shifts is not conducive to good communication. During the meal the positive aspects of the day could have been discussed by each family member. Mrs. Jones could have provided nutritious snacks that would have curbed appetites until the evening meal was ready. She could have asked each child to report to her individually about the events of the school day.
Then when dad walked in the door, a family which had already unwound just a little bit could have greeted him with a smile. Enthusiastic family harmony would have been apparent.
Next week we will continue our discussion about what makes some families healthy and ways that families can organize their time to achieve this goal.
Working toward a family goal of positive communication with mutual respect and love is very important in any healthy family and can be achieved.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright 1984