Six things successful families have in common

Posted8/7/2016 1:00 AM

Editor's note: Ken Potts is taking some time off. In his absence, we are republishing a series of columns that first ran in 2003. This column is the third of 10 exploring the topic of healthy families.

Marriage and family counselors spend a lot of time with people whose relationships are in trouble.

Twenty-five or more hours each week I work with wives, husbands, and children, too, who are trying to figure out how, or if, their families can survive and grow.

With all the talk of families in trouble, it is easy for us to forget that some families do work -- and work well. Though each of these families is unique, all do seem to share some common strengths.

A group of researchers at a major university conducted a comprehensive study a few years ago to determine exactly what these healthy families do that sets them apart. They interviewed 350 of these families from all over the nation who had a variety of racial, ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds.

All the families interviewed met three basic criteria:

• All the couples considered themselves to be happily married.

• They felt good about how they related to their children.

• All the marriages were first marriages (second or third marriages can work, and work well, but the reasons tend to be a bit different, which can confuse this sort of research).

Analyzing their data statistically, these researchers identified six major characteristics of the healthy families they studied. Though each family exhibited these qualities in their own special ways, all six of the following characteristics were present in all of the families studied:

• Such families spend time together.

• They know how to communicate effectively.

• Members of these families show appreciation for each other.

• There is a strong and consistent commitment to family relationships.

• Family members share a religious orientation.

• Crises are dealt with positively.

Each of these six strengths seemed to be necessary for a family to work well. And, as you might expect, it takes time and effort for a family to master them. But many families have.

Over the next few weeks we'll be exploring these characteristics in detail. We'll also talk about how we can begin to build them into our own family systems.

As we work together on these, do some thinking on your own about what strengths you believe are important to the health of your family.

• Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of Samaritan Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove. He is the author of "Mix Don't Blend, A Guide to Dating, Engagement and Remarriage With Children."

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