Keeping in mind that holistic health means balanced physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, which of these traits describes your family or relationships:
All members often feel free to be spontaneous, play, and relax enough. Exchanged humor is spontaneous and affirming, not shaming, belittling, or hurtful.
The adults are clearly and consistently in charge of the family. The minor kids
are not called on to do significant care-giving for younger children or disabled
adults, or to make major household decisions.
The family leader(s) (each) have specific, realistic, harmonious goals for what
they are trying to do as people, partners, and stepfamily adults. They have
viable plans to reach their main goals.
Each member consistently feels unconditionally loved, wanted, and prized for
who they are, rather than for what they can do or contribute.
Each member consistently feels physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe
enough, short- and long-range.
Each member is basically honest with himself or herself, and with all others;
there are few or no taboo subjects or family secrets.
Members often exchange respectful assertion, genuine listening, and
cooperative, effective interpersonal problem-solving.
Each member gets enough appropriate nurturing (such as hugs) as opposed to
painful, intrusive, or shaming physical contact.
Members exchange steady encouragement to fully develop their unique natural
talents, and to be their real self, rather than an ideal, false self or someone’s clone.
Members exchange prompt, honest, constructive feedback instead of
manipulative or shaming feedback.
Members are encouraged and rewarded for taking non-shaming personal
responsibility for their choices, rather than blaming others, deflecting,
manipulating, or hiding.
All members feel open to freely experience and evaluate others’ ideas, customs,
and beliefs, as opposed to being bound by a rigid, bigoted “our way is the only
true way” of thinking.
Minor children are steadily encouraged to be themselves, i.e., kids, without guilt
or shame, instead of little adults, clones, or super-achievers.
Each member is genuinely supported in developing his or her own spiritual
curiosity, reverence, and a deep, nurturing faith in a benign, reliable, personal
Higher Power based on unconditional love and hope, not on fear, guilt, shame,
Family and household rules are consistent, clear, appropriate enough, and
Consequences are clear to all, respectful, prompt, and appropriate enough, and aim at teaching and guiding, not at punishing and forcing compliance based on fear or shaming.
Personal adult-child and family-outer world boundaries are clear, appropriate,
and consistent enough.
Leaders confidently, rather than fearfully, delegate increasing responsibility and
autonomy as individual abilities grow.
Members openly enjoy reasonable pride, pleasure, and satisfaction in personal
and group achievements.
Leaders provide children enough effective training in living, social, and learning
skills—especially in effective verbal and written communications and problem-
Members are encouraged to feel and safely express all their current emotions,
especially anger, sadness and despair, and fear. Members support each other in
grieving their major life losses promptly and well enough, over time.
Each member values and strives for healthy interdependence, rather than
excessive dependence or premature independence.
All members have a healthy balance between work, play, and rest; and between
group, couple, and personal times.
Members value chances to make safe mistakes and to learn from them without
excess anxiety, shame, or guilt.
Members all respect, prize, and care for their bodies and are comfortable
enough with (not excessively guilty about or ashamed of) their physical
endowments or lack thereof, and with their gender and gender-preferences.
Members share an appreciative interest in, and respectful concern for, the Earth
and all things on it.
- All members feel an appreciation and serene acceptance of the natural differences and sameness among each other and among all other people, cultures, and nations.
All members are appropriately encouraged in the responsible, shame-free
enjoyment of personal sensuality and safe sexuality, within the moral norms of
the group and society.
Members are steadily encouraged to adopt attitudes of realistic hope and
optimism, versus unrealistic pessimism, doubt, and fear.
Each member steadily feels an unshakable, deep, balanced respect and love for
himself or herself, and for all others.
Each family leader can spontaneously quote many or most of these traits and
The more of these factors you, as the leader(s) of a relationship and family consistently and spontaneously provide, the more functional it is. How do you feel about the list you have just read? Do you agree with most or all of it? No? Then, what do you believe? Scan the list again. Reflect. Could you honestly omit one or several of these traits without reducing the probable harmony and emotional health and growth of your family, or of any human relationship or group?
What happens to children who are deprived of too many of these traits as they are growing up? The truth is sad. Kids who are deprived of too many of these factors, for too long, predictably develop specific emotional and spiritual wounds, i.e., inner pain or gnawing emptiness.
Take a moment to take in the full scope and depth of these many healthy-family factors and you will begin to appreciate just how very complex the challenge of really effective family management is! Make no mistake—these factors are equally important to biological, foster, adoptive, gay, absent-parent, and multi-home stepfamilies. If you, as the family leader(s) cannot clearly describe your specific ideas of what a healthy or functional family is, and what you are trying to achieve with your family, the odds of your family being unable to meet the needs of its members rise steeply.
Excerpt from The Secrets to Stepfamily Success by Gloria Lintermans. For complete information: http://amzn.to/stepfamily