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Spring Is Time for a Check-Up on Family Well-Being

Check in on your family’s foundation for well-being using the "4 P's."

Key points

  • Four core principles, or the 4 P's, can guide a check-up on family well-being.
  • Our physical setup can help ensure that people have their needs met. We may need to tweak physical setups, such as work spaces.
  • Predictable routines foster a sense of control, and we may need to re-evaluate routines as the weather changes.
  • Maintaining positive relationships and pleasurable engagement, for example by seeking joyful challenges, are also important for well-being.

Each of us defines well-being a little differently. In simple terms, well-being has been defined as judging life positively and feeling good. Physical, emotional, social, financial, spiritual, and environmental – there are many possible dimensions contributing to overall well-being, which is essential to a healthy life. In fact, the World Health Organization defines total health as including not only the absence of disease and illness, but also the presence of well-being across different dimensions.

Sustaining well-being has been especially challenging for families over the past year. School closures, economic burdens, health consequences, political unrest, and racial reckoning have been simultaneously hurled at us like some sort of destructive meteor shower. For families who faced substantial challenges before the arrival of COVID-19, the damage has been even more catastrophic.

As spring arrives, it feels like the storm might be starting to ease up. We should expect, however, that conditions around us will continue to change for some time. It is important that we monitor the weather of our family well-being, now so more than ever. We need to be able to adjust what we do to make sure each family member – young and old alike – has the right gear to support their well-being.

Four core principles can guide monitoring your family’s well-being. They are the 4 P's: physical setup; predictable routines; positive relationships; and pleasurable engagement.

Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels
Source: Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels

Physical Setup

Physical needs that support well-being include basic needs such as nutritious food, clean water, and stable housing, but also adequate sleep, space to engage actively in work, and even access to needed technology. The past year has brought lots of great tips – coupled with the marketing of goods – about how to meet physical needs more effectively. As spring moves ahead, it’s a good time to check on how all of that advice is working. Consider what adjustments should be made.

Sleep offers a great example of how the first “P” should be fine-tuned to meet individual needs. Recommendations regarding hours of sleep vary by age; however, total hours aren’t the only consideration in physical setup. Sleep hygiene, including your bedroom setup, is just as important. Ask yourself questions such as: How long does it take you to fall asleep? How do you feel when you awaken? Use a healthy sleep habits checklist; small changes can mean big improvements.

After the long winter, consider re-evaluating physical setups for work and learning, too. Maybe the space your child is using for learning has become distracting or less motivating. Perhaps school schedules have changed, shifting the balance of remote and in-person learning. Work together, maybe along with school personnel, to do a check-up on the learning setup. Seek adjustments that maximize focus, such as moving furniture toward or away from a window, or trading locations with siblings. Make it a game: Try out different options, like labeling green, yellow, and red learning zones throughout available space.

Predictable Routines

Predictable routines help strengthen our feelings of control and certainty as well as form effective habits. Every person knows what to do and when to do it. Your daily routine may already be established, as in a visual display of time blocks that include activities such as movement time, together time, learning/work time, personal time, play time, sleep time, and even adult coffee time.

Shifts to warmer weather, however, may inspire re-evaluating routines. Perhaps adjust schedule blocks to find the best times for focused work while maximizing outside play time. Include no-blame, open conversation about what is and isn’t working. For example, you can say, “I’ve noticed that you seem to do your best work when you get up at 7 and work at the kitchen table right after breakfast. What do you think?” Know there may be a few tries to perfect the routine for each person.

Positive Relationships

Perhaps the most important “P” to well-being is access to positive relationships. Feelings of safety, support, and belonging are critical, and supportive social connection is powerful in linking across dimensions of well-being. Supportive connection helps us process big thoughts like, “Why can’t I stop worrying about getting sick?” as well as the little ones like, “I’m so frustrated that I can’t finish this math assignment!”

Our relationships have been heavily weathered over the past year. Fewer opportunities for social connection have meant that our smaller circles have strained to keep up with the needs of each member. Consider ways to bring your best self in keeping relationships positive. Sometimes adjustments should focus on the self, such as clearing headspace by taking a 10-minute walk alone.

Other times, focus on your interactions. When an important relationship feels tense, try small changes to deepen connection. Committing even two minutes each day to sharing conversation and focusing attention can make a difference. Interactions may not always go as intended; you might be verbally snappy after having work interrupted. Part of maintaining positive relationships is using those situations to reflect and adjust. Apologize and talk about how you can prevent it in the future, such as using a special hand signal when it is not a good time to be interrupted.

Pleasurable Engagement

The final “P” to well-being is all about bringing positive emotions into what we do. Joy and interest are important to being engaged, and being motivated and engaged can bring forth positive emotions.

Offering each family member choice is really important to pleasurable, active engagement, as it gives a sense of control. Within choice, seek joyful challenge – engagement that is not too hard or too easy. Challenges that are “just right” offer more ownership, which increases interest and motivation.

It’s possible that things are feeling a little too much of the same for your family. If so, modify activities to bring novelty or a fresh twist into a particular passion. A budding artist might find learning math facts more pleasurable when outside using sidewalk chalk, or aspiring bakers can try exploring new recipes that incorporate gardening. Brainstorm when you get stuck coming up with ideas, and give each a try. Turn it into a game, figuring out which choices come out on top for your family. Start by making a list of options, making guesses about what each other will think, and then testing it out and charting results.

Remember that predictable routines are important, but so is flexibility in arranging those options to make sure there is fun. The 4 P's work together to help monitor the foundation of your family’s well-being.