People often say that we are what we eat. Of course, that is not literal, and it simply means that what we eat affects our health. Although, for the most part, exercise, stress, medical issues, and genetics all play a part in our overall health too. We often spend time on our own health, some people more than others. But how much time do we spend on the health of our family? I don’t mean physical health, although that is vitally important, I mean emotional and mental health. We know that healthy families create healthy children.
Where do we start?
We start by creating a resilient family. We let go of the ideals, and notions of perfect parenting where children turn out to be angels, devoid of any imperfection. The perfect family, adult or child doesn’t exist, but a family that is connected, strong, loving and healthy does exist. However, it takes effort, just like any diet or exercise plan, our career, or anything else we do in life.
We need to first, realize that a resilient family isn’t a fixed state of being, something you either are or are not. Family resilience is something we can grow over time. We do this by cultivating family processes and capabilities that allow us to cope with difficulties. We learn from challenges and solve problems together.
“What distinguishes healthy families is not the absence of problems or suffering but rather their coping and problem solving abilities.”
We need to enjoy the less than perfect moments in life, realizing that often those imperfect moments offer just as much joy and fulfillment as the more scripted moments. We need to aim for connection not perfection. The old cliché holds truth; it is not the destination but the journey that is often more important, especially when dealing with younger children.
What can we do to continue the process of building healthy families and healthy children?
Here are a few suggestions for building Healthy Families:
Be Mindful: Trying to find a bit more mindfulness and bit less judgement in ourselves. This will increase our ability to pause and respond, rather than simply reacting. Understanding that if something doesn’t go the way we envisioned it, it doesn’t mean we failed, instead see the positive in the smaller moments.
Be Present: Make eye contact, put the cell phone away, take fewer photos and make more memories. Listen, engage, and spark curiosity in your child.
Be Adventurous: Step out of your comfort zone (small steps) and encourage your child to do the same, build character, and skills. Build strength and courage, not fear and anxiety.
Communicate: Improving the clarity of our communication through better listening, and deepening our understanding of our own communication habits and needs. Are we clear when we explain ourselves or do we assume that we are understood? Help our child to communicate clearly, to be heard and understood.
Emotions: Understanding more about healthy experience and expression of emotions in ourselves and others. Teaching your child how to express themselves and helping them understand their emotions and how they feel is important. As parents, we need to acknowledge that their feelings are a real as ours, and we need to show them the same respect.
Flexibility: Simplifying daily routines of family life to increase your ability to bounce back when the inevitable disruptions occur. Modelling this to your child will help them be able to do the same when routines or changing their schedules happen.
Teach coping skills: Your child will never learn to cope without challenges. Problem-solving and coping, mean as a parent you can not rescue your child when life gets hard. Rather giving them the opportunity to be challenged, will in the long run, teach them resilience. Your child will be happier and healthier when they learn to deal with disappointment and frustration and come out the other side unscathed.
Healthy families are attainable with work and dedication. The rewards will be a child that grows up feeling secure, safe, loved, respected and able to weather any storm that comes their way, maybe not always perfectly but then who needs perfect.