Strong families: what they are and why they’re important
Strong families generally have a few things in common:
- warmth, care and positive attention
- good communication
- a predictable family environment
- connections to other people outside the family.
Strong families give children a safe, secure place to be themselves and learn about who they are. Because children in strong families feel secure and loved, they have confidence to explore their world, try new things and learn. They can deal better with challenges and setbacks because they know they have family support.
Warmth, care and positive attention in strong families
Being warm, caring and affectionate with your child helps to build strong family relationships.
Positive attention is also important for building strong relationships in your family. This is the way you show interest and delight in your child and what they’re doing. Positive attention builds connection and shows your child that you’re available when they need you.
Tips for creating warmth, care and positive attention
Here are suggestions for creating warmth, care and positive attention in your family:
- Tell your child how much you love them, and look for opportunities to tell them you’re proud of them.
- Smile and look into your child’s eyes when you talk to them.
- Show physical affection when you can.
- Praise and encourage the people in your family when they do something well. For example, ‘Ben, you worked hard on that science homework – well done’.
- Show gratitude when the people in your family do kind things for others. For example, ‘Yanee, thanks for helping to unpack the dishwasher this morning’.
- Create opportunities for special one-on-one time, doing things you all enjoy. Why not make this special time part of your family routine?
Children from warm, caring and affectionate families get along better with other children and teachers, and they’re less likely to have conflict with others. Also, plenty of attention and affection makes children feel secure and cared for, which can help them deal with life’s ups and downs.
Good communication in strong families
Strong families communicate well about both good and bad things. They celebrate together when times are good and talk about problems when times are tough. This creates a safe place for children to share difficult feelings like embarrassment, confusion or shame. And it strengthens family members’ relationships with each other.
Here are tips to encourage good communication in your family:
- Encourage family members to talk to each other – and listen so everyone gets a chance to express their thoughts and feelings.
- Help your child learn words to express their thoughts and feelings, so they know how to ask for what they need or want.
- Listen and respond in a sensitive way to all kinds of things – not just nice things or good news, but also feelings like anger, embarrassment, sadness or fear. You don’t always have to solve problems or give advice.
- Learn how to negotiate and compromise when there’s a problem, so that you can find a solution that everyone accepts.
- Use nonverbal communication like smiles, eye contact and physical affection to strengthen your relationships.
- Have family meals together as often as possible, at the table with the TV and phones switched off. This is a time when you can share what’s happening in your lives.
Children learn about good communication from the way you talk to them and others. This includes watching how you manage conflict or solve problems with others. When your child sees you sorting out problems calmly and respectfully, you help them develop important skills for life.
Predictable environments in strong families
A predictable, organised family environment can help children feel safe, secure and cared for. In this kind of environment, children know what to expect each day – and what’s expected of them too.
Predictability in family life is especially good when children are going through challenges, developmental changes or uncertainty. For example, if your child is settling into a new school, your family’s evening routine at home might be very comforting.
Here are suggestions for creating a safe and predictable family environment:
- Create a family routine so that everyone knows what to expect – who should do what, when, in what order and how often. A family routine can also help you to make time for enjoyable family activities or one-on-one time with children.
- Emphasise your family values – for example, love, respect, acceptance, support for each other, and so on. Family rituals and family rules are good ways to make sure everyone knows what’s important to your family.
Routines can help children with disability, particularly those who find it hard to understand or cope with change.
Connection to others and strong families
Being connected to other people who care about them is important for children. Valuable connections include your extended family, friends, neighbourhood and community.
Connections help children develop a strong sense of themselves. It gives them a stronger sense of their place in the family, as grandchildren or cousins, and within their community.
Other important adults can be good fun when you celebrate birthdays and a support for your family when times are tough – for example, if there’s a death in the family.
Volunteering or being involved with regular activities in your community can help children develop a sense of identity and belonging. An example could be working with a local conservation group.
Tips for connecting your family to others
Here are suggestions for connecting your family to others:
- Encourage your child to see their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. If they live far away, talk to them on the phone, write letters or emails, or make video calls.
- Get involved in a local community group or sports club. This gives your child the chance to get to know new people and see community members working together.
- Invite grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or family friends to school or sporting events that are important to your child – for example, an awards ceremony or performance.
Being connected to friends, family and community is also important for parents. A support network of trusted adults can be a big practical help – for example, when you need someone to pick up your child from school. Your network can give you emotional support too – for example, when you’re feeling overwhelmed or you want advice.
Looking after yourself
Looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally is good for you and gives you more energy to build a strong family.
You can look after yourself by getting enough rest, doing some physical activity and eating a healthy diet. It’s also important to make time for yourself and your relationship with your partner, if you have one.