All families should be safe families, but the reality is many are not. Because each of us carries our own dynamics as well as personalities into a family, relationships are complicated and we can easily create an unsafe environment, if we aren’t purposeful about not doing it.
Safe families are composed of safe individuals and have the following characteristics:
They value each family member equally. Both your own biological children and stepchildren have equal value and weight in the family. This doesn’t mean you will feel the same toward them. It is natural to have different feelings toward your own children, especially if you came later into the stepchild’s life or the relationship is relatively short in duration. Your spouse also matters as much to you as your children.
They value open communication. This means each family member is open to hearing the truth about what is happening. It means individuals don’t have to be afraid to bring up sticky issues with anyone. Family members work on being open to truth and avoid being defensive and reactive when it is brought up.
Entire Family is Valued
They value the family as a whole. Each family member matters, but the peace, harmony, and functioning of the family as a whole matters too. Weight must be given to how individuals affect the family, as well as what is going on with them personally. Some decisions will put the welfare of the family above the welfare of an individual.
They value responsibility and allow each family member to carry their own weight and be responsible for themselves rather than blaming individuals in the family for the actions of others. They don’t enable or excuse unacceptable behavior and don’t inconsistently apply discipline or consequences to members differently.
They value trust. They keep their word. They mean what they say, speak directly and avoid manipulation. They keep confidences when given confidential information. They self-evaluate and apologize when they are wrong. They are honest about their motives and feelings.
If you have trouble doing any of these things, you need to work on becoming a healthy safe individual. If your family isn’t safe, do what you need to do to bring light to the situation so it will become safe.
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