Becoming Family-Oriented: How to Create Strong Family Culture

Today’s world is busier and more structured for kids than ever before. As a result, it is more challenging to establish the norms that are likely to develop a strong family bond. Parents can change this dynamic by creating family-oriented experiences for their kids early and often.

Family-oriented means committing to your family first, appreciating the relationship you share with them, and demonstrating that appreciation through your priorities. Being family-oriented is a state of mind informed by your value system which serves as a guide for structuring your life around your family.

Strong family-orientation leads to closer bonds and supportive relationships in all areas of life. It is the quality and nature of family relationships that are of the most importance.

Being family-oriented is synonymous with being family-centered or family-focused. Those who consider themselves as family-oriented sometimes long to start a family, come from a tightly knit family, or have a religious background.

Family-Oriented Homes Create Positive Life Outcomes

Family well-being is essential for stability in the home. Healthy parent-child relationships support positive interactions, which in turn promotes bonding.

It creates an environment where passions, hopes, and strengths of the family are reinforced and valued (source).

A primary function of the family, besides support, is helping each other grow and learn.

While money can buy a college education, it cannot teach the beliefs and values needed for children to grow into responsible adults.

For that, no money is required. Instead, patience, love, and understanding are the currency of a home with strong values.

Families guide social behaviors and morals in a way that the education system cannot.

An individual’s identity and self-esteem are strongly affected by their relationship with family members. Each has a role to play, and each serves as a teacher to the children in the family.

Parents expect children to be cooperative and responsible. Considering the needs of all and valuing interpersonal relationships are common expectations in close families.

According to the National Institutes for Health, close extended family relationships help protect adolescents from the influence of negative peer pressure.

Beyond the nuclear family, close bonds with grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins can be valuable to a child’s sense of worth and belonging.

To reinforce this sense of closeness neighbors, friends, and organizations such as churches, can serve important roles in bringing families closer.

The Institute suggests there are three primary aspects of familism:

  • Family obligations
  • Emotional closeness and support
  • Need to rise to family expectations

Each of these factors serves key roles in creating, developing, and maintaining family culture.

Becoming Family-Oriented

Family orientation is not about spending all your free time entertaining family members.

It is a commitment to a relationship, wanting to spend time together, and looking forward to the company of family.

Family-oriented individuals participate in activities with their family, are open to marriage to their partners, and are child-friendly.

The steps needed to become family-oriented are different depending on your family situation right now.

A parent, adolescent, and child are all going to go about their commitment to building that bond in different ways.

However, they do share many of the same principles and traits:

  • Service to Others
  • Deep Care for Loved Ones
  • Patience
  • Understanding
  • Willingness to Compromise
  • Commitment

Positive family interaction may look different from family to family, but the healthy ones strive to embody these principles.

They all fall short of them at times, but they are intentional about using these concepts as their compass to guide how they will treat those to whom they are closest.

Family members will respond to behaviors and cues differently. Cultural goals, current life situations, personal history, and temperament affect how they interact.

Responses also vary with gender — for example, a family man and a family woman influence a child’s academic success and social-emotional development in different ways.

In the process, they counterbalance each other, providing the child with a strong academic and emotional foundation to face life’s challenges.

Setting Family-Oriented Goals

It is difficult to define family goals because there are no two families alike. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Whether the unit is a traditional family, stepfamily, or single-parent family, there is a unique dynamic that comes into play.

Look at your family’s current situation and pinpoint what you want to achieve and set goals to accomplish them.

Just like anything else in life, being thoughtful and intentional will go a long way in helping you achieve your goal.

Make a list of what works in the family relationship and what needs some work.

Maybe your family needs to visit grandparents who live in another state or country more often.

Perhaps there are strained step relationships. Identify what you desire to work on to begin setting family goals. Then, decide what you can do to make things better.

Through your example, others may come around to your way of thinking.

In essence, all families what the same thing. They want to be happy. It is the number one goal families set.

The Australian Family Strength Research Project identified some universal characteristics of happy families.

  • Communication
  • Sharing Activities
  • Togetherness
  • Support
  • Affection
  • Acceptance
  • Commitment
  • Resilience

These eight principles are an excellent starting point for setting family goals. Start with simple changes.

Over time and with dedication, you are likely to see benefits snowball. Families benefit when there is two-way communication that is open, patient, understanding, and loving.

They share activities. Some decisions need to include children’s input to help them feel they are worthwhile family members.

A happy family shares a feeling of togetherness. They encourage and support each other.

Happy families show affection towards each other. Families may consist of individuals with different needs.

They may have different beliefs and values. Happy families display acceptance of individual differences and are resilient during challenging times.

Be Open to Marriage and Children

People who are family-oriented tend to date people they feel are in search of a relationship that potentially turns into something serious, rather than casual dating.

If you have children or date someone who does, family-oriented means being comfortable, including children and possibly future children in your life.

Family-Oriented Activities

The number of ways to spend quality time with the family to foster the principles mentioned above is unlimited.

Family-oriented activities can involve the entire family or smaller groups.

Examples include having a weekly game night, watching a football game together, and eating dinner together instead of in front of the television.

If children learn ballet or play a sport, take time as a family to attend the ballet concert or watch them play their game.

If possible, attend school sports days. Schedule dedicated, quality time with the children and your partner.

Each time you do one of these things, the bond gets a little stronger as your dedication to each other become more apparent.

The purpose of the activities is to strengthen and foster relationships, remind families why it is essential to spend time together, and build memories.

It is a frame of mind that guides actions in relationships with friends and family.

Family orientation also means appreciating partners’ relationships with their families.

Child Outcomes for Family-Oriented Families

When parents have a healthy sense of their power they use it to care for their kids, protect them from harm, avoid aggressive reactions, and use parenting practices that promote healthy outcomes for the entire family.

A positive parent-child relationship is the foundation for a child’s ability to learn.

When parents provide predictable, responsive, and sensitive care, young children develop the skills needed to succeed in life.

Early parent-child relationships affect the child’s emotional well-being, coping and problem-solving skills, and the capacity to form future relationships (source).

These interactions teach children the skills they need for engagement with others and how to succeed in various environments.

They learn to manage behaviors and emotions and establish healthy adult and peer relationships. In the process, the children learn to resolve conflicts and adjust to new situations.

Challenges to Being Family-Oriented

Negative behaviors and health outcomes are more common when families live with instability, stress, a lack of resources, or are isolated. Any of these risks pose a challenge.

When there is a combination of risk factors, the threat is even greater.

A build-up of risk factors negatively affects parent-child interactions. This often results in a  negative effect on the child’s social-emotional, cognitive, and language development.

Parents can protect their kids from these risk factors by developing their communication skills, growing their social-emotional connection, and creating a supportive home environment where the child feels accepted for who they are.

Programs to Help Families Become Family-Oriented

There are programs out there that also help parents facilitate the healthy development of their child.

Parents with young children should look for local Early Head Start and Head Start programs. They promote positive parenting outcomes by providing strong support.

Other programs, like Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia are child-centered education models that help children build confidence, develop their understanding of the world, and explore their interests.

Strategies to Become Family-Oriented

Research suggests that parent expectations of their adolescents’ skills, abilities, and future occupational and educational choices have a powerful influence on adolescent and young adult achievement (source).

Expectations are shaped and reinforced by both covert and overt parent behavior.

Adolescents learn and internalize behavior from their parents and families, which in turn influences their behaviors, attitudes, values, and beliefs.

This has a direct impact on how they see the world and their life outcomes.  

Autonomy development is among the most critical developmental concepts during adolescence.

It is an essential self-determination component. Autonomous individuals act with one’s abilities, preferences, and interests without influence from others.

Theorists and researchers from a wide range of disciplines cite how important family and other adults are in promoting autonomy development in adolescents.

Older kids need to figure out who they are. This can be a long and arduous process but is worth it.

Parents should provide strong support and responsible guidance during this period.

Exposing them to various outlets where they can develop their creativity, curiosity, concentration, resilience, and responsibility and key in helping them figure out who they want to become.

Family-Oriented Kids Adjust Well to College

An influential study investigated how the parent-adolescent relationship impacted the child’s adjustment when transitioning to college.

Personal-emotional, social, and academic components included in the analysis.

The link between the mother-adolescent relationship appeared to be more influential than that of the father-adolescent relationship for overall and sectional data collected.

Students identified parents, particularly mothers, as the first people from whom they seek support.

More African Americans and dormitory resident students identified their mothers than from other ethnic backgrounds or commuters.

The finding suggests the cultural history and living arrangements may be factors to consider when looking forward to your adolescent’s college experience (source).

The quality of parent-child relationships forms the basis for the ongoing relationship when the child transitions to college.

Important factors to consider include; trust, closeness, and communication.

Along with other variables, they coalesce to form the student’s perception of his or her relationship with each parent.

The study indicated a positive correlation between strong parent-adolescent relationships and academic adjustment but not social and personal-emotional adjustment.

However, other studies found an association between social and personal-emotional adjustment.

The consensus seems to be that students cope better with the transition to college when they perceive high levels of support from parents and are happy with the amount of support they receive.

When such is the case, students use parents as a secure base to explore and adjust to college life.

How to Be a Family Man or Family Woman

Studies on this topic investigated child relationships with fathers and mothers separately.

Fathers and mothers differ in the types of experiences they offer to their children.

For example, generally speaking, mothers tend to be more emotionally available for infants than fathers.

The pattern continues through childhood and adolescence. Mothers engage in more frequent interaction than fathers.

Fathers have a more distant relationship. Generally speaking, mothers are more responsive during adolescence and fathers more demanding.

Male and female adolescents attest to being closer to mothers than fathers.

Studies also show a correlation between different academic, personal-emotional, and social variables and parenting characteristics were consistently more significant and stronger for mothers than fathers.

The transition to college also shows measures of mother-adolescent relationships are more predictive of adjusting to college than the measure of father-adolescent relationships.

The sample was diverse in terms of parental marital status, ethnicity, and gender.

Do these findings negate the importance of fathers? Not at all. Fathers play a very significant role in family-oriented cultures.

Families with fathers in the home fare significantly better than those without. There is no substitute for two loving parents in the home.

Parents who embody these values know home is not a place from which to escape.

Whenever they are away from the people and place they love, they feel a palpable longing to be home.

Dedicated parents love their family. They do not view them as burdens that require a compromise of plans and goals.

They put their family first. When making everyday choices, their choices meet the family’s needs. Their own needs are a secondary priority.

Children spell love T-I-M-E. The importance of spending quality time with family may seem obvious, but its impact can’t be understated.

The family man spends time with his children out of genuine love rather than a sense of obligation. His interests intertwine with the needs of his children.

He cares about other people and is a contributing member of his community.

He will mete out discipline if needed to teach children right from wrong but knows relationships development with more than instruction.

His words are affirmations that build up self-respect, acceptance, confidence, and courage in his children.

Strong parents are always on guard. They are purposeful in what their children watch, what they do, where they go, and with whom they spend time.

Their training and example actively teach their children how to be good men and women.

When children have difficulty communicating, they patiently encourage them to express what they are feeling. Parents have a lot to ponder.

No one accomplishes all of the above perfectly at all times. They stay focused on what matters to their families and do the very best they can (source).

Final Thoughts

For those families who want to become more family-oriented, becoming family oriented may involve a change in behavior and mindset.

At its core, it consists in becoming more appreciative and committed to the family.

Families have to learn how to manage life together with other commitments like work, extracurricular activities, and friendships.

Like any obligation, becoming family-oriented takes work to make it a priority.

Each family has different needs. Figuring out the best choices for families is vital as they navigate ways to make the family a significant priority.

You can begin by expressing your commitment. Show the family your commitment by demonstrating loyalty, modifying the emphasis placed on work, and overhauling the to-do list for chores and work.

Put a focus on family time above all else.

Where appropriate, integrate the family with the chores and tasks to build shared respect of each person’s contributions in the home.

Get the family involved. It is not a sound strategy to try to do everything yourself — Monitor family goals.

Family dynamics change as children grow up, and parents grow older. Stay in touch with the family ‘feel’ and put family first.

Intentionally spend time with each family member to develop a deep bond with each one on a personal level.

Dr. Patrick Capriola

Dr. Patrick Capriola is the founder of strategiesforparents.com. He is an expert in parenting, social-emotional development, academic growth, dropout prevention, educator professional development, and navigating the school system. He earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Florida in 2014. His professional experience includes serving as a classroom teacher, a student behavior specialist, a school administrator, and an educational trainer - providing professional development to school administrators and teachers, helping them learn to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of students. He is focused on growing strategiesforparents.com into a leading source for high-quality research-based content to help parents work through the challenges of raising a family and progressing through the school system.

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