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                           By Mitchell Flaum, PhD and Bennett Flaum, PsyD

Families that Work:

Modern families come in many shapes and sizes. There are two-parent and single-parent families. Parents may be straight or gay, single by choice or parenting alone due to separation, divorce or widowhood.  

Families may also be blended with children present from different sets of biological parents, or adopted, or under the aegis of foster care.

Given the diversity of families these days, you might ask if there are any universal norms that may be used to define a properly functioning family.

Are there Golden Rules for a happier family?

Yes, in fact there are seven of them!

The CREATOR Model:

Using the acronym “ C-R-E-A-T-O-R “, the following guidelines can be used as a blueprint for cultivating and maintaining healthy and happy families:

C- Communication:

One component of healthy family functioning can be observed in the easy flow and expression of thoughts, feelings and needs among family members. In such families, there is little room for secrecy or avoidance, as there is a sense of safety and security within the family nexus.

R- Respect:

It is also crucial that the family environment promotes a sense of unconditional respect for each family member. Everyone is entitled to have their own set of thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This respect also implies the presence of clearly defined boundaries between each family member, thus providing a reassuring feeling of protection and trust in the family home.

The practice of such respect further allows for the psychological growth and individuation of each family member.

E- Empowerment:

In order to thrive, family members need to receive encouraging and nurturing messages from each other affirming that they are indeed worthwhile, and capable of achieving their goals. Healthy families thus become a virtual cheering squad for each other, nurturing and supporting their hopes, dreams, aspirations and goals, and helping them believe in themselves.

  • We all need validation. If it doesn’t come from home, we lose something important.

A-Acceptance:

Family members need to know and believe that they are valued and cherished as a vital part of the family constellation. Continual messages of love and appreciation for each other’s presence and role in the family, and expressions of gratitude for their ongoing contribution to the family can help create such a sense of belonging. Furthermore, such ongoing affirmations will foster a feeling of family togetherness, harmony, unity and purpose.

T- Task Delineation:

Being part of a healthy family clearly has its advantages. However, being part of such a family structure also entails a set of responsibilities, along with commitment and accountability. Clearly defined expectations are crucial, in which family members know what their roles and duties are, along with guidelines and support in enabling them to accomplish their assigned tasks.

Such responsible participation helps provide family members with instruction in community living, and fosters the value of being fully present and involved and committed to the welfare of others.

O- Organization:

Healthy families require a structure and an organizing mechanism. Such structure implies that there’s a central organizing process in the form of a leader. In addition, there needs to be a set of rules that all family members commit to and abide by, as well as a structural mechanism by which the family operates.

A healthy family structure includes features such as how, when and where family members eat and sleep, as well as how they plan and organize their vacations. This also encompasses the presence of shared family rituals, such as weekend and holiday dinners, religious and ceremonial observances, rites of passage, such as graduations, as well as special family celebrations, such as birthdays and anniversaries.

  • Meaningful gatherings and a common history provides an opportunity to share life stories, comfort and console, express gratitude, and problem solve. These moments reaffirm the sense of family togetherness and commitment to being in each other’s lives, as loving, caring family members.

R- Resiliency:

The final aspect of healthy family functioning involves emotional resiliency. How well does the family deal with crises and emergencies? What coping mechanisms are available to the family, in terms of handling adversity? Can they openly discuss their fears and concerns in such circumstances, or does communication between family members break down? Do family members turn to each other for advice, support and comforting at such times, or do they isolate themselves in denial and confusion, thus creating a conspiracy of silence?

Has the family cultivated a resilient, optimistic, proactive problem solving approach, able to mobilize their collective resources, or do members become confused, and feel helpless, apathetic or frozen? Can they soothe and comfort each other, or do they attack, blame, ridicule or shame each other?

Furthermore, is there enough flexibility for members to shift roles and responsibilities when needed? Who indeed becomes the designated backup leader when current leadership is absent? Finally, are there external means of social support systems available and accessible to the family unit as well in such difficult times?

  • Things often go wrong. Life is full of detours. And, families that hang in there with each other can make a difference in a sometimes cold and indifferent world.

A Happy Family – A Together Family:

By cultivating the C-R-E-A-T-O-R model’s seven principles, most families can reach a happier state, thus enabling its members to thrive and grow

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Dr. MItchell Flaum, PhD, & Dr. Bennett Flaum, PsyD are psychologists and co-authors of " How Sweet It Is: Living & Learning From Diabetes". They write a health column for Black Tie Magazine. 

In addition, Dr. Mitchell Flaum maintains a private practice in New York City.  

The authors can be reached at  dreamguru36@aol.com.

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