Strong families made through six important, practiced qualities

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj) Steven Nicolai
  • 71st Flying Training Wing
"Military murders: A string of slayings involving the wives of Fort Bragg soldiers has raised concerns in this military community about the stress wartime deployments may be adding to already shaky marriages." The Associated Press, July 26, 2002
While this occurrence is miniscule compared to the thousands of deployments that occur in the military, it does highlight the concern that spouses and their children need to learn how to work out the difficulties of separation.
The forming of families doesn't happen magically; it requires time, attention and nurture. It begins long before the start of a deployment, and needs to be maintained during the deployment and the reunion after.
Dr. Nick Stinnett, on behalf of the Logos Research Institute, Inc., led a research project to learn the secrets of strong families. When analyzed, it boiled down to six major qualities. The research also showed that these qualities just didn't happen; they are the result of deliberate intention and practice.
What are these six characteristics?
First, strong families don't expect perfection from each other; they accept each other as they are but also accept responsibility and work together as a team.
Second, happy families make time for each other. They work, they plan, they struggle and they play together. And while we may not have as much time together as we'd like, we can be intentional about the quality of time together that we do have.
Third, successful families have effective communications. This includes not only the ability to express one's thoughts, ideas and opinions, but also his or her feelings and have them accepted.
Fourth, affirming families express appreciation to each other. No one gets tired of hearing "thank you for...," "I appreciate you when..." or "I love you because you're you."
Fifth, satisfied families accept crises as normal and know how to work through them. Conflict management can draw strong families together and make them stronger.
Sixth, holistic families have a strong spiritual commitment. A number of studies show that couples and families who worship together have a better chance of having a "very happy" marriage and family than those who don't go to worship.
One of the things my family did during my deployments was to pray for one another at the same time of day. We figured out the time difference between deployed and home locations, and established a suitable time for both places. Then we pulled out a picture of our family and prayed for one another, knowing that at the very same time, we were being upheld in prayer as well.
There are many resources on base offered through family advocacy, family support, life skills and the chapel, which are meant to strengthen your marriage and family. These programs include, among other things, classes on parenting and communication, stress and anger management, employment opportunities, a toddler's playgroup and a deployed spouse support group. The chapel offers weekly worship services, bible studies and counseling services (as do the other base agencies) to support you in your daily routines as well in life's changes and uncertainties. A key factor in all these resources, I believe, is they are staffed by military members who understand the challenges of the military life and who are no stranger to the difficulties presented by deployments and reunions.
The forming of families doesn't happen magically; it requires time, attention and nurture. Take time now to form your family; learn to enjoy one another and celebrate life together.