More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
6 Steps to a Stronger Family
An article from

The recipe for building stronger families has six ingredients. Mix them carefully and watch your family grow closer.

Recipe for a Stronger Family
1. Make Family Your Priority
"The pledge to the family comes first," says Nick Stinnett, lead researcher and professor of human development and family studies at the University of Alabama in Tusacaloosa. Strong families "don't question whether it's best to part ways. That's one less decision, which reduces a lot of stress." To build commitment, you can:
  • Pare outside activities so family members can devote time and energy to each other.
  • If something needs to be done around the house, whoever has time to do it does it.
  • Make a big deal of holidays. This creates many happy memories.
  • Develop a family vision. Put your family's dreams into writing.
2. Express Appreciation and Affection
"Strong families are good diamond hunters," Stinnett says. "They dig through the rough looking for the good in each other." Here's how:
  • Declare "appreciation" nights. Everyone around the table says something they like about another.
  • Write down 10 things you like about your partner.
  • Be a good role model. Appreciate your partner and your kids, and they'll follow suit.
  • Accept appreciation gracefully.
3. Share Positive Communication
Keeping conversation positive, versus hostile and derisive, will enable the other person to feel more respected and encourage sharing of thoughts.
  • Make sure you don't discourage others by interrupting, mind-reading, or going off on monologues. If you wouldn't do that to co-workers, don't do it at home.
  • Keep a family journal. Chronicle the little things, like a baby book that keeps growing.
Nurture Spirituality; Combat Stress
4. Spend Time Together
It's trite but true: Quantity counts as much as quality when it comes to family togetherness. Here are some ways to increase the amount and quality of time you spend together:
  • Plan group activities.
  • Do nothing -- together. "Think back to your childhood and you'll realize that your happiest memories probably involve times when you were doing 'nothing,' perhaps sorting socks with your mom," Stinnett says. "That's when you could talk in an unhurried way."
5. Nurture Spiritual Well-Being
Powerful families may band together, but they're open to the needs of others. Families with a sense there is a reason for life beyond mere existence will be more likely to encourage one another to focus on what's really important. To reach that level:
  • Pray and meditate. Participate in a faith community or discuss spiritual issues at home. Study your traditional religious literature and sing together.
  • Teach responsibility. Kids will be less self-involved if you remind them of the world beyond them, Stinnett says. So give time, muscle, and money to a cause -- and enourage the same from your kids.
6. Learn to Cope with Stress
Crises cause the strong to unite, which makes them all the more powerful. Follow these guidelines:
  • Don't take conflict personally. Realize that disagreements aren't personal.
  • Get enough sleep and exercise.
  • Laugh. Look for the humor in any situation.
  • Refocus priorities. What's important when your kids are preschoolers will change as they grow older. Your needs will change too, as you move from a new parent to that of an empty-nester. Make sure your family's goals meet everyone's needs.
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