The February 2009 Ensign magazine is not online yet, but it has a wonderful article in it called "The Functional Family" that offers wisdom as we seek to strengthen our families. I will share a few points points from the article here with you.
The writer of this article, James D. MacArthur is a professional family and couples counselor and he offers this advice:
"People seem to think that family members in functional families get along perfectly and solve problems together perfectly. Of course, the reality is that calling a family "functional" does not mean the family is perfect. All families face challenges in dealing with the unique personalities of family members. However, in a family that functions well, family members recognize that they have weaknesses, and they work to improve their relationships despite their weaknesses."
1. In the functional family, parents focus their energy on teaching their children correct principles and allowing them to exercise their agency.
2. In the functional family, parents intentionally strengthen their families: This includes regularly pondering the needs of family members so that "circumstances, other people, or old habits" do not end up "dictating how you respond to a given situation". He says that regularly considering your family's needs will give you 'time to consider the changes you and your family may need to make'".
3. In the functional family, relationships are of supreme importance: The author writes, "It's a good idea to regularly examine the condition of each relationship in the family....Of course, that raises a question: when you realize that someone in your family needs some help either in a relationship with you or with someone else, how do you help things improve? One thing I've learned is that relationship usually don't get better accidentally; rather, they improve when we make that result a priority."
4. In the functional family, parents are active teachers:
5. In the functional family, parents lead by example: The author says, "Children are always watching and observing our behavior, whether we know it or not. In my role as a father, I regularly take stock of my behavior by asking myself, 'Can I recommend to my children that they follow my example both publicly and privately?' If the answer is no, I make corrections where needed."
6. Finally, in the functional family, parents teach their children faith in our Heavenly Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ:
"Remember to be patient with yourself and your family members. Relationships usually improve in stages, not overnight. Strengthening them requires time and effort. However, as you strive to have a functional family based on the teachings of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His restored gospel, you will provide your family the best opportunity to grow closer together and to face challenges with a greater sense of harmony and happiness."
To read the rest of this article, check back here around Feb 1st.