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Christian psychiatrist & author shares qualities of healthy families

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Characterized by a high divorce rate and a low regard for commitment, America is losing the concept of a strong, healthy family. But it doesn’t have to be a terminal condition, a child psychiatrist and popular Christian author and speaker said.
“God is always in charge and he will see us through; we have that promise,” Grace Ketterman told almost 700 church workers attending the National Preschool/Children Convention Oct. 19-22 at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn.
Teaching Bible-based qualities for healthy relationships is an important key to solving the family breakdown, she said, describing such instruction as “very possible” and “urgently needed.”
Ketterman has been helping troubled families for more than 40 years through speaking engagements, counseling sessions and books such as “Parenting the Difficult Child” and “Mothering in All Ages and Stages.”
“In working with troubled families, so often I find that children’s problems come from marriage problems,” Ketterman said, noting 60 percent of American elementary school children come from single-parent or blended families.
Referring to research first conducted 30 years ago and replicated in later studies, she shared six qualities common to strong, healthy families:
1) Commitment. “They are committed to one another as individuals and to the family as a whole,” Ketterman said. “So many people are operating under a philosophy of hedonism, groping and grasping for any kind of pleasure. It’s so easy to quit, but we have to be able to think more wisely.”
Children often lack commitment to follow through with assignments and responsibilities, Ketterman said, because parents fail to model appropriate behavior. “Permissive parenting” also has resulted in many children being unable to understand and cope with anger and frustration. “We teach it by being committed ourselves, sticking to our promises,” she said.
2) The ability to cope with crises. “This isn’t just the huge things like a cancer diagnosis or broken bones,” Ketterman said. “These things often bring families closer together. It’s the little things that usually cause friction, like when the school bus is coming and you can’t find one of the kid’s shoes.”
She said parents and children must learn “to stop power struggling and start problem solving.” Making wise decisions requires learning to size up the situation, identify options to solve the problem, examine the consequences and make the best choices.
3) Effective communication. “This demands that we learn to listen,” Ketterman said. “It demands an open mind to hear all the sides of an issue, to understand emotions and all the things that go on within us. … We need to learn to ‘listen’ with our eyes. Our eyes, faces, body gestures and posture give away so much of what we are feeling. With little children, this is so very crucial.”
4) An affirming and appreciative attitude. “We have to learn to build up people instead of tearing them down,” she said. “We can teach children a different [more positive] way of speaking.”
5) Activity sharing. “Healthy families share in all kinds of things they do, not just recreation, but work, too,” Ketterman said. This can involve everything from helping children with homework and doing yard work together to playing board games and sharing a family meal.
“By sharing activities, we can further the bonding process that begins at birth,” she said. “Sometimes we think bonding happens only at birth, but it goes on for a lifetime.”
6) Practicing their faith at home. “How common it is for us to delegate teaching to the schools and the teaching of faith to the Sunday school,” Ketterman said. “How often parents are shy about using the name of Jesus.” But the healthy family “talks naturally about God, about faith, about what God is doing in their lives,” she said.
The lessons parents teach children are for a lifetime, Ketterman said. “They impact them all along the route of their life.”
The National Preschool/Children Convention was sponsored by LifeWay Church Resources, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources.

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  • Chip Alford