Building a Strong, Asset-Building Family

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood but of respect and joy in each other’s life.
—Richard Bach, American author

What do you dream your family will be like? What are your hopes for each relationship? Each person? Building a strong, asset-building family is about having a vision of what you hope for. You want each person to live to her full potential. You want relationships to be strong and close. You want every family member to have as many Developmental Assets as possible. Here’s how to create a strong, asset-building family.

For more information on the Developmental Assets, see What are Developmental Assets?.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • Listen to your child and respect what he is telling you. Let him know that you will always be there for him, and work on building a strong relationship that is characterized by warmth, boundaries, and respect.
    • As a family, talk about what your hopes are. Listen closely to your kids. They often have invaluable insight.
    • Read Search Institute’s national study Building Strong Families and see how your family compare.
    • Create ways to regularly spend time as a family. Eat dinner together as often as you can. Consider having a weekly or monthly family night to play board games, watch a movie, exercise, or do something adventurous. If you’re having trouble finding something you all enjoy doing together, suggest playing a multi-player video game with your kids. Have them teach you how to play. You may be surprised at how much fun you’ll have once you get the hang of it.
    • Talk about the 40 Developmental Assets. Post the list in your home where everyone can see it. Download the free list of 40 Developmental Assets.
    • Be honest about your family’s difficulties. No family is perfect, and every family has its stressors and weaknesses. Talk about these and work through them together. Recognize that some difficulties will never be totally solved, but there are ways to thrive as a family even when faced with hardship.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Know that you’re in a major transition when you start having children. It changes everything. Not only do you have a child to care for, but it seems that many of your relationships with other people begin to shift and sometimes you even rethink where you live, how you make a living, and more. Use this time to make the changes that you long for so that you can create the family and lifestyle you dream of.
    • Not only do you want to have a strong asset-building family at home, but you also want your child to have positive relationships with other caregivers. Look for asset-building individuals in child-care centers, preschools, and other settings.
    • Create a lifestyle that brings out the best in your young child. Develop a daily routine that includes healthy meals and snacks, exercise, naps, reading, downtime, and intellectually stimulating times.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Even if you’ve had a tough day, be happy when you see your child after school or after work. Tell your child how happy you are to see her. Your kids notice your moods, and they also like to feel welcomed when they come home from their day.
    • Ask your child how he would like to spend your next family time together. Play card games. Go to the zoo. Go swimming. See what your child would like to do.
    • Encourage your child to help you with setting the table or preparing a meal. Ask your child for ideas for what to cook.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • At this age, some kids want to spend more time with their friends than with their families. Instead of making family time a strain, encourage your child to invite a friend over for a family night or a family outing. Include the friend as part of your family.
    • Continue to have meals together as a family as often as you can—even when family members have busy schedules. Research shows that family meals are a key way to bring family members closer. To read more about this research, visit the Child Trends databank.
    • Have fun together as a family. Tease each other (in ways that all family members find funny). Watch funny TV shows or movies together. Laugh.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Get to know your teenager’s friends. Learn their names and interests. Invite them to your home. Your kids feel valued when you take interest in their friends. And to the extent possible, also get to know the parents of your child’s friends.
    • If possible, try to take family vacations to places where your older teenager really wants to go. Once kids graduate from high school, it can become more difficult to include them in family vacations.
  • Be there for your teenager. Although it may seem that teenagers are self-centered and don’t often give much back, they notice when you’re there for them and care about them. Over the long haul, this helps them connect more deeply to your family and it also keeps you connected to them.

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