Healthy family relationships help all members of a family feel safe and connected to one another. Family relationships sometimes involve conflict, which is a normal part of family life. Conflicts can occur between adults, children or adults and children. Some examples of conflicts could be disagreements about household chores, parenting decisions, house rules or siblings wanting to watch different TV shows or not wanting to share toys. It is important that these conflicts are dealt with in a safe and respectful way. Healthy family relationships also mean that positive interactions between family members outnumber the difficult times.
Typically when we think of families, the traditional nuclear and extended family who are biologically related may come to mind. However, a family can be made up of anyone a person considers to be their family. A family shares emotional bonds, common values, goals and responsibilities. Family members contribute significantly to the wellbeing of each other.
When a family includes children, one or more adults may take on an involved role in the child’s life and become a parent or carer. Parents and carers may not necessarily be biologically related to the child or even live with the child all the time. A child may have one or several parents or carers. In addition to their biological parents, this could include grandparents, step-parents, aunts and uncles, foster parents, adoptive parents, and any other person who fulfils a significant portion of the parenting and caregiving for the child.
The relationships we experience with the people around us have a great influence on our wellbeing. Strong, positive relationships help us build trust and feel supported. Having people around us who can share positive and difficult times can also help us manage stress when things become tough.
Children first learn about relationships from their own families. Families give them a model from which they start to discover how to build relationships throughout their lives. Children who have a model of healthy relationships from their families are better able to create these relationships outside their families, with the other children and adults in their lives. When children learn the skills of building positive relationships, they can practise these skills over and over again as they meet new people. For example, when parents say "thank you" to children when they help out, then children are more likely to say "thank you" when their peers or other adults do something for them.
Children also feel safe when they know that their family members love and will protect one another. A warm and safe family environment helps children learn, develop and experience what strong relationships look like.
See the CHILDREN AND FAMILY ADVICE section for suggestions on some ways to improve your family relationships.
[TBC – Susan Iddon]