HOW FUN TO HAVE A FUNCTIONAL FAMILY: 8 CHARACTERISTICS!
“A family is an incubator. Question is: Is it incubating heaven or is it incubating hell?” -Anon.
It was in my therapy practice years ago when I realized that almost all angst starts in relationships. It is why this blog exists…all about that thing when two or more humans connect. We do it all the time. And, of course, our first one is the family. Yep, it was just Mom and Me in the beginning.
It was just Mom and Me. Nope, that is a lie, it was me, Mom and Dr. Mulhern and his nurse at the Mobile Infirmary Hospital.
Dr. Mulhern gave me my first spanking.
Welcome to the world! SMACK!
“That’s good, he’s crying,” says Mulhern.
[BTW, Nobody asked my opinion on that!]
My second spanking
My second spanking came from Dr. Mulhern’s nurse, on the next day. She undid my diaper, the air hit my little peepee and Whoosh! I peed right onto her face and chest…and she smacked my butt.
“Serves you right, getting my uniform yellow!”
And, oh, by the way, Welcome to your second day on Earth!
My mother said nothing.
This was my intro to dysfunctional families.
Back to the nearer future…in my therapy practice. I was listed under Marriage and Family Counseling in the Yellow Pages, as that was the only listing for counselors if you were not a psychiatrist. I had a LOT of clients with marriage and family issues.
So, I began to study. I had learned in my training that to be a researcher was good practice. I began looking around for some work describing what a healthy (or “functional”) family was. There was nothing! I was amazed. No one had laid out what a GOOD family was like.
So, I did.
It was published in American Health magazine, and was roundly criticized for my definitiveness on the dysfunctional family.
The editor sarcastically said, “Well, by your definition, EVERY family is dysfunctional!”
“Right on the button, Ed.”
That is why, in a past blog we began with the truth about dysfunctional families…and how probably every family has its moments of being dysfunctional. The question was, how often, how much and when?
But now, on the other hand…
It is only fair that we put up the Gold Standard on families.
WHAT IS A FUNCTIONAL FAMILY?
Here are the eight characteristics of a functional or healthy family. They are the exact opposite of the 8 characteristics of a dysfunctional (abusive/neglectful) one. See the chart below for a comparison.
- You were affirmed. “We love you just like you are!”
- Abuse was refused as a tool for correction. “We know your weak spots and we know how to inflict hurt, but we decided to never do that.”
- Quality time was frequent. (Eye contact, laughter, focused attention, mutual enjoyable and/or meaningful experiences)
- Your necessities were always provided. “Eat your vegetables.” “Wear a good coat and gloves today.” “Get in bed and get proper rest.”
- Healthcare was always provided when needed. “Let’s get those teeth fixed and straightened.” “Let’s keep up on those vaccinations.” “Take your vitamins.”
- Problems were opportunities to learn from. “Now what did we learn from leaving the garage door open and the kittens getting out and almost run over?”
- As a consequence, mistakes that were made strengthened the family. “Because we learn from our mistakes we never have to go over them again or get upset about things unnecessarily.”
- You could relax and “ride easy in the saddle.” “No one is out to get you here.” “Life is to enjoy!”
The Functional <+++++++++++++++++++++>Dysfunctional Family Continuum
|• Affirms one another
• Refuses to abuse
• Provides quality time
• Necessities provided
• Health needs met
• Problems are opportunities
• It’s OK to make mistakes
• Rides easy in the saddle
|• Critical of one another
• Righteously abuses
• Dedicated elsewhere
• Neglects basic needs
• Health needs are neglected
• Problems weaken
• Mistakes spotlighted/shamed
• Hypervigilance as a way of life
The wonderful contribution this chart has made is that it clearly shows family members what to avoid and, conversely, what to do, in order to have a healthy, happy and balanced family.
Nobody told me this when I first got married and had children.
Dr. DJ is a renegade psychologist who is more concerned about people’s health and happiness than impressing other psychologists with his writing. Clear and to the point with the blunt truth is the goal here. If you want to know more about family relationships, intimate relationships, work relationships or social relationships, sign up for our mailing list now.