Helping families discover their strengths is a task that child care providers can have as one of their family goals during the year. An atmosphere that highlights the good about each child and family will ultimately help each family when having to recall what their strengths are and when asked to list them on an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and/or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Resources are relatively easy to identify. A parent can say how much money they have, how much insurance they have, how many relatives are available to help, etc. However, having to identify personal skills and aspects of their lives that they think they do right or are proud of, and tell this information to others is less easy to do. Because spending time thinking of ways to praise ourselves is not something Americans have been socialized to do, the task of identifying own family strengths is often hard for families.
How do our families feel about themselves on a day to day basis? Does the stress of living and caring for children with chronic special needs change the way families think and feel about themselves? Can our parents reflect for a few minutes and identify their own abilities, skills, actions that would count as a family strength?
Lists of family strengths are available from different researchers. All the lists have several common characteristics. These include love or commitment, effective communication, spending time together, and sharing a common religious core (Stinnett and DeFrain, 1985). The following list of family characteristics or family strengths (Curran, 1983) is a convenient one for child care providers to work from.
The healthy family...
*communicates and listens,
*fosters table time and conversation,
*affirms and supports one another,
*teaches respect for others,
*develops a sense of trust,
*has a sense of play and humor,
*has a balance of interaction among members,
*shares leisure time,
*exhibits a sense of shared responsibility,
*teaches a sense of right and wrong,
*has a strong sense of family in which rituals and traditions abound,
*has a shared religious core,
*respects the privacy of one another,
*values service to others,and
*admits to and seeks help with problems.
Child care providers are in a unique position to help families recognize their strengths. Mentioning a few possible family strengths or traits can help the family begin to think about what is good about them and what they are doing in their families that is good. Having individual and informal discussions about the strengths of families serves the purpose of giving the family "permission" to verbalize what they think is good about themselves as a family and as individuals within the family. Child care providers can: develop a bulletin board theme highlighting a family strength, such as tradition. use a family strength as the main concept in a student lesson plan. conduct staff training on the role of child care providers in enhancing family strengths. plan center and family activities which foster family strengths.
Curran, D.(1983). Traits of a healthy family. Minneapolis: Winston Press.
Selekman, M.(1997). Solution-focused therapy with children: Harnessing family strengths for systemic change. New York: The Guilford Press.
Stinnett, N & DeFrain, J.(1985). Secrets of strong families. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co.
Stroul, B. (1995) Case Management in a System of Care In Stroul, B & Friesen, R. (Eds.). From case management to service coordination for children with emotional, behavioral or mental disorders: Building on family strengths. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.