Happy family dining togetherJust like anyone who is starting to learn more about heart health to keep their body operating to full potential, every family has a unique pulse that indicates the overall emotional functioning of the sum of its members. Some families may feel lethargic, weak, and shallow. Other families may feel erratic, overworked, and close to burnout. And yes, there are families are somewhere in the middle, putting in intentional effort to find a strong, steady rhythm which pumps healthy emotional functioning throughout their time together.

By taking a closer look into the unique type of pulse that your family presently feels; parents can adapt choices toward healthier consistency and steadfastness to their family relationships. Each of these categories offers a closer look into what pumps in healthy emotional strength throughout every member of the family. Asking questions about how your family operates can highlight a “prescriptive path” toward speeding up or slowing down the pulse toward a healthier beat.

•SCHEDULE – Who in your family is feeling bored, exhausted, or left out due to the schedule? Between work, school, extracurricular classes, sport teams, volunteering, and other commitments; family members can be pushed and pulled all over town. Consider if adding or removing certain commitments (for one or more family members) could bring your family’s schedule pace to a healthier beat.

• FOOD – Every family has to eat and run sometimes, but in general, consider the frequency of fast food, eating out, heating up frozen processed foods, caffeine and sugar intake that each family member fuels their body with. Try to see if there are three mealtimes each week to intentionally find healthy, simple, low cost meals that make parents proud to nourish their family with.

• SLEEP – Over the next week, keep sleep logs for each member of your family. Depending on ages, humans need minimum hours of sleep for healthy development. Children grow while sleeping, and their body restores itself to prepare for another day of exploring and learning. Parents need healthy sleep patterns to support the physical and emotional demands of raising a family and working in and/or outside of the home.

• PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – Which members of your family are more likely to be found on the couch or on the bike path? Finding a balance of active time on the playground, the backyard, using the jogging stroller, or the gym membership will keep not just stronger muscles but also a great attitude of about healthy, strong lifestyle instead of a pressure about socialized body image.

• FINANCES – Is your family’s earnings, spending, and savings out of whack, in control, feeling pressured by too much restriction, or do you just have no idea? A healthier pulse when reviewing the financial ingoing and outgoing will create a peaceful and strong foundations. Are certain members of the family utilizing more finances than what is contributed to others in relations to “extras”? If so, review the reasons to make sure fair distribution is being considered.

• COMMUNICATION – Which voices are always heard in the family versus which ones do you never hear? Which tones are soft, gentle, and joyful verses angry, intense, or shaming? Are the adult’s texting more than talking? These areas of communication can point toward opportunities of improving a healthier communication pulse.

• ATTACHMENT BONDING – Are there members of the family who are closer than others? Are “favorites” something that is real or imagined? Are the adults able to trust each other? Creating secure attachments with each member of the family will provide a steadier emotional pulse.

• EDUCATION – Some families gravitate toward pressure for excellent grades from preschool on up and others feel that education may be secondary to athletics. Finding a healthy balance to nurture your family’s cognitive growth through academic support if needed, brain teaser family apps & puzzles, attending parent-teacher conferences, or parents considering going back to school/training can create a stronger pulse for the overall family.

• SPIRITUALITY – Unique views on faith, God, religions, spiritual practices and/or traditions can balance the pulse of your family. Some families may attend a temple frequently while other may just write a family mission statement. Finding ways to teach your family morals, character, and core intentions, can bring added strength and steadiness to the family pulse.

• LEISURE TIME – Intentionally creating time for unstructured play, relaxation, can allow the family to unwind and restore its energy. If a family is always or never in “relaxed unwind time”; it would be helpful to review the family pulse and see when there could be at least one weeknight a week with no outside commitments, and one morning on the weekend to linger in pajamas at least an hour or two later than normal.

As families grow and change, different categories may shape into strengths or areas of concern. Find opportunities here and there to gradually shape your family’s pulse, and ask other adults or professionals in that category for help if needed. Within a short time, you will feel the positive effects of a stronger, steadier pulse that will allow greater emotional health to function within your family.

Annie K. Jung is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) who specializes in children, teens, and families. Her private practice is located at the non-profit Awakening Center in Brentwood. She is also a married, mother of three; you may find her in a carpool line near you. Contact Annie at akjcounseling@yahoo.com or (925)-759-7200.