Shirin Ansari : Healthy Family Attributes

Healthy Family Attributes

This article is written within the framework of the mental health of the families belonging to the Irano-American community.

Shirin Ansari, PhD

Dr. Ansari is a board-certified clinical psychologist. She is the founder and president of the Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions in south Orange County. She has also worked as a school psychologist for the Irvine Unified School District and coordinated psychological services for many children and their families. Dr. Ansari completed her education in the state of California. She holds teaching credentials, a master’s degree in school psychology, and a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. She is married and has two children. Dr. Ansari’s specialties include working with children and adolescents with in the context of diverse family structures, as well as assessment and treatment of complex psychological issues.

How many of us perceive parenthood as one of our most serious responsibilities in life ? How many of us take the time to think and reflect about how we parent our children ? Unfortunately, a very high percentage of parents are so busy providing for their families and taking care of the daily and mundane aspects of life that they rarely set aside the time to systematically approach parenthood. But before discussing the attributes of a healthy family, we must first educate ourselves about the challenges that many parents and their children face. A study conducted in 1998 showed that :

- More than half (56 percent) of youths age 12-17 reported that marijuana was easy to obtain.
- Among youths age 12-17 years, 13.7 percent reported that they have been approached by someone selling drugs.
- More than 40% of teens, who admitted drinking, said they drink when they are upset ; 31% said they drink alone ; 25% said they drink when they are bored ; and 25% said they drink to “get high.”
- Each year students spend $5.5 billion on alcohol. On a typical college campus, per capita student spending on alcohol ($446 per student) far exceeds the per capita budget for the college library.
- Approximately 240,000 to 360,000 of the nation’s 12 million current undergraduates will ultimately die from alcohol-related causes (more than the combined number of those who will graduate with an MA or a PhD).
- Eight young people die in an alcohol-related car crash, every day.
- 52% of children ages 5-17 have a TV in their bedroom.
- In an average U.S. home the TV is on 7 hours and 12 minutes, per day.
- Parents spend 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.
- In the U.S., 7 in 10 women report having had sex before age 14. Among them, 6 in 10 report having had sex involuntarily.
- Nationally, one-quarter of 15-year-old females and less than 30% of 15-year-old males have had sex, compared with 66% of 18-year-old females, and 68% of 18-year-old males.
- Nationally, nearly one million young women under age 20 become pregnant every year. That means close to 2,800 teens get pregnant every day.
- Approximately 4 in 10 young women in the U.S. become pregnant at least once before turning 20 years old. Looking at these statistics we begin to discover the many challenges that our children face. Many parents prepare their children for school in the morning, safely drop them off at their schools and hope that their children will take advantage of all that the American educational system has to offer, without any major problems. Unfortunately, many of us know that this education can be very costly to us, as our children are jeopardized by many risk factors, in the process. Now let us look at the body of literature and research and see what attributes have been identified as critical in providing a solid foundation for a healthy family and raising children.

Attributes of a healthy family :
- Trait 1 : The healthy family communicates and listens.
- Communication without imposing a sense of fear or guilt
- Active versus passive communication
- Trait 2 : The healthy family teaches a sense of right and wrong. This teaching should be synchronized with the educational system.
- Trait 3 : The healthy family models respect for everyone. Respect for others starts with self-respect. Therefore, no family member is humiliated. Promoting each member’s self-esteem brings about self-respect.
- Trait 4 : The healthy family holds a sense of trust among its members. (Modeled by everyday actions)
- Trait 5 : The healthy family shows a sense of play and humor.
- Trait 6 : The healthy family shows a sense of balance of interaction among members.
- Trait 7 : The healthy family shows a sense of shared responsibility for each member.
- Trait 8 : The healthy family has a shared sense of religious core.
- Trait 9 : The healthy family has a strong sense of family in which rituals and traditions are practiced.

- Trait 10 : The healthy family respects each member’s privacy.
- Trait 11 : The healthy family values commitment to community service and feels responsible for others in need.
- Trait 12 : The healthy family admits to problems and issues and seeks help in times of conflict.

Even though the conscious incorporation of the above traits into our life style may appear too idealistic, it is critical that parents educate themselves about each of the above attributes. Often times, Iranian families, in accordance to their culture, seem to be more preoccupied with their external image in the community, as opposed to the family’s overall emotional health. My professional experience shows that many families in our community are in deep pain for lacking one or more of the above attributes. It is only through a conscious effort that parents can gain the respect and trust of their children. Fortunately, many of the Iranian -Americans, living in the United States, are beginning to realize the seriousness of their responsibilities. Hopefully, the aforementioned attributes of a healthy family can serve as a guideline for all those families that believe in on-going growth for all the family members, not just for the kids ! !

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