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6 Essential Characteristics of a Strong Family


How we define ‘family’ is entirely based on our values and personal experiences in life. There is no set way to describe a family, and none are more valid than any other, whether it’s made up of step-parents, single parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, or anyone of your choosing. The way you define family is completely unique to you and your values. Family may look different to everyone, but the 6 traits of strong families remain the same. 

Over the years, there have been many studies done on family dynamics and the level of happiness within them, including a research project on family strength completed by Nick Stinnett and John DeFrain through the University of Nebraska. Through these studies, researchers have identified the 6 characteristics that remained constant within strong families. 

strong family

1. Appreciation

The way a family expresses their appreciation for one another is a major determining factor for how each person pictures themselves within it. If someone feels they are unappreciated, they may struggle to find their place in the family unit. When expressing love and gratitude is put into practice, it creates a deeper bond, allowing space for each member to feel valued and seen. 

How to develop it:

 There are a variety of ways to begin intentionally including this into your family dynamic, but one of the best ways is to lead by example and express how much you value the people around you. Model good manners in front of your child by saying “please” and “thank you” and by pointing out specific things you appreciate about them individually as well as the people around you. Another great way to begin introducing this is by asking each member of your family to tell you something good that happened that day and share in their excitement. You can also encourage this by noticing specific things about the members of your family and simply expressing how proud you are of them. Small gratitudes can create big change.


2. Strong Communication

The way a family speaks to one another can be an easy way to assess the dynamics of the family. When a family holds little value for how they communicate, relationships can deteriorate as members may begin to feel unheard by others, ultimately creating a feeling of being uncared for, unimportant, and even unworthy of respect. By creating a space within your family to hold open and honest conversations based on listening, understanding, and respectfully responding, you effectively allow each person to feel safe within the family, and remove the anxiety surrounding the more difficult conversations that need to happen throughout the family’s development.

How to develop it:

Communication is one of the more difficult things to adjust to in a family dynamic. How we communicate is often something developed through mirroring the communication styles around us. One of the best ways to introduce healthier forms of communication is to model it in all your conversations. For example, when you’re speaking to your child, make sure you’re actively listening to what they’re saying. Ask them questions to clarify what they’re telling you, and make sure you express to them your understanding of what they’re saying (and confirm that it’s correct!). Validating your child’s feelings and experiences is an important component of this. Reassure them that it is ok for them to share anything with you and that what they’re telling you is essential and perfectly acceptable. Genuinely listen to your child, truly understand what they’re telling you, and respond respectfully, for a productive conversation to take place. 


3. Quality Time

What comes to mind when you think about your childhood? It’s unlikely that your first thought was about gifts you received or the cars your parents drove. What’s more likely, is that you remembered a time where you were doing something fun with your family, whether it was a family trip or a particular family tradition, or maybe even the regularly occurring family dinners. The time a family spends together, and the quality of that time, is incredibly influential on the family dynamic. When you prioritize spending time together as a family in meaningful and enjoyable ways, positive memories are formed, and relationships are reinforced.

How to develop it:

Schedule a time each week for your family to spend together, uninterrupted. This may be difficult for families with busier schedules, however, these periods of time together don’t always have to be overly long. Sit down with your child, and ask them one thing they want to do with you each week. Then, look at your calendar and find a time to fit it in. You’d be surprised at your child’s answers to this question. The best thing about this strategy is that by allowing them to navigate the activity, you are providing them with the quality of time they need with you at that time. You simply have to ask.


Spiritual Wellbeing

Spirituality is a spectrum and is individual to each family. Simply put, spirituality is the values that guide the family, the consistent themes in their lives, and the morals they share. This can come in the form of a higher power and the belief system the family follows, or it can simply be the family outlooks and where their priorities are placed, such as positive outlooks and family traditions. It is how the family chooses to live, and the foundation the family is built upon.

How to develop it:

This is often a trait that’s already been developed through generations before you, however, if you’re unsure where you’re family falls in this spectrum, take some time to sit down as a family and identify the values that mean the most to you. How do you want to live your life, and how do you want to teach your children to view this world? The answers to these questions will be how you nurture your family’s spiritual wellbeing.


Coping Abilities

How a family manages stress and responds to crisis plays a vital role in the strength of the family. When a family member is struggling and lacks a support system to care for them, their outlook on the family can be influenced by feelings of abandonment. However, a family that supports each other through difficult times, and overcomes obstacles as a team, will develop a much more stable emotional connection as they are building resilience together. 

How to develop it:

We learn coping skills from the environment around us. As you grow in your ability to manage stress, you will influence that within your child as well. For example, if your child is struggling with anxiety, it’s an emotion they are unable to manage on their own and will rely on you to help them cope with the feelings they are experiencing. By helping them develop coping mechanisms that work for them, while also showing them they can rely on you, you’re building trust and nurturing a stronger connection.


Commitment To One Another

In a strong family dynamic, members share a powerful commitment to one another through shared experiences that create a sense of responsibility for each other. A key element in developing a strong familial commitment is a family’s ability to problem solve by coming together and discussing struggles both inside and outside the family dynamic in healthy ways free from judgement. By committing to understanding one another and accepting each other’s differences, you are effectively reinforcing your relationships and forming a stronger dynamic. 

How to develop it:

This is something you can encourage at any stage. One of the best ways to begin fostering this is by actively problem solving with your child. Encourage them to come to you when they are struggling with something, and brainstorm ways they can manage that situation. Don’t fix it for them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Help them come up with a plan, and support them in implementing it. After you’ve done this, thank them for coming to you and letting you help them solve the problem. This will not only help them develop their own problem solving but also reinforce that they can rely on you to support them when things get tough and that you’re happy to do it.


A strong family is not something that simply happens. It is a foundation that is developed over time through intentional choices and supported through a loving, respectful and open environment.