This column is dedicated to all the parents who are making parenting a priority. The words that you need to hear are “thank you.” I want you to know how much you are appreciated. The following are some suggestions entitled, “Traits of a Healthy Family.” Remember no one can do them all but many of you are checking off many of the boxes.

B The healthy family communicates and listens. I just have to say it……..COMMUNICATION AND LISTENING DOES NOT INVOLVE A CELL PHONE!!!!!
B The healthy family affirms and supports each other. (This can be accomplished in a single parent home as well as two parents).
B The healthy family teaches respect. (This is super important).
B The healthy family develops a sense of trust. (Try growing up and not trusting).
B The healthy family has a sense of play and humor. (This helps children learn how to balance the stress of life with some fun and laughter.)
B The healthy family exhibits a sense of shared responsibility-it is taught. (Everyone needs chores.)
B The healthy family teaches a sense of right and wrong. (Children have to be taught to be responsible for their own moral behavior and it is the parent’s task to teach).
B The healthy family respects the privacy of one another. (Yet also becomes aware if their child appears to be spending too much time in privacy,)
B The healthy family admits to and seeks help with problems. (No family does it perfectly, in fact lets just get rid of the word perfect. When parents seek help it means they don’t have the answers but care enough to ask and then follow thru with behavioral changes.)
Here is a good example of what not to do:
John T called to set an appointment for his 8 year old son. I told him that I needed to speak to him first and he reluctantly agreed. He said his son, Craig was depressed and not sleeping well and thought he might need medication. I met Craig the following day. He was a cute little boy who looked sad and lethargic.
He sat down beside me and we began to draw. He drew a picture of an adult man and young boy throwing a football. I asked if that was him and his dad. He softly said, “I wish it was but my dad sits in front of his computer and tells me he will play with me, then it gets dark and he says it is time for bed. He was very sad as he talked about his dad.
It was now time to talk to his father again. I told John that I was not the person that John needed, nor did I think Craig needed medication. I told John that Craig needed HIM. I showed him the picture that Craig drew and shared his story. I suggested the best medication would be to spend quality time with Craig, especially throwing the football. I will never forget his question.
John looked at me and said, “How long do I have to throw it?”
(PS……that was the last time I saw John and his son).

Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City

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