Familiness & Strengthening Family Resilience

*This blog post was first published on December 11th, 2010 in The Prevention Researcher blog, a journal on adolescent development that I worked for.  The journal’s last issue is being published 9/2013.

Over the past month, I have been reading and thinking about this concept called familiness.  “Familiness reminds us as individuals and as members of particular families to think always about possible alternate structures and sets of functions that constitute family for others” (Shriver, 2011, p. 274).  This concept has been helpful when looking at the challenges of the holidays.  Often there is a mixed bag of emotions as the holidays approach: who do we include in our holiday planning, how are members included or not included, which family members are no longer living, and how might we celebrate with our friends or others we consider family instead?  These are just a few questions that come to mind.

In researching this topic and how we define family, thinking about the holidays and coping with those positive and negative stresses, I found a great book by Froma Walsh, titled Strengthening Family Resilience, 2nd Edition (Walsh, 2006).  Using a systems view of resilience, as a foundation for a Family Resilience Approach, she defines three keys that are particularly important when looking at how families cope as a functional unit.  Family resilience can be defined as a family’s ability to cope and adapt as a functional unit over time.

Here are her Keys to Family Resilience:

1. Family Belief System

-Making meaning of adversity

-Positive outlook

-Transcendence & spirituality

2. Organizational Patterns

-Flexibility

-Connectedness

-Social & economic resources

3. Communication Processes

-Clarity

-Open emotional expression

-Collaborative problem solving

As you prepare for the close of the year and the year to come, and continue your work with youth and families, I hope you find this definition of familiness and these keys to family resilience helpful.