published Sunday, July 8th, 2012

First Things First: Build family assets

Julie Baumgardner

In 2011, The Search Institute conducted a national survey of family assets. This online survey of 1,511 adult parents and their 10- to 15-year-old children looked at the ways family members support one another through day-to-day interactions.

Here are areas tested:

Nurturing relationships: positive relationships, affection, emotional openness.

Establishing routines: family meals, shared activities, meaningful traditions, dependability.

Maintaining expectations: openness about tough topics, fair rules, defined boundaries, clear expectations, contributions to family.

Adapting to challenges: management of daily commitments, adaptability, problem-solving, democratic decision-making.

Connection to community: neighborhood cohesion, relationships with others, enriching activities, supportive resources

Study Results

The average American family scores 47 out of 100 on the Family Assets Index. American families have strong relationships but struggle to overcome challenges and connect with the community.

The most common asset was clarity of parents' expectations regarding school performance and who their children are with and what they are doing.

The least common asset was close relationships with others in the community.

According to the survey, the more assets a family has, the more likely the family is to engage in healthy behaviors such as maintaining a balanced diet and getting adequate rest, exercise and down time. The study showed that families with more assets are more likely to:

• Have children who are actively engaged in school and earning higher grades.

• Act in socially responsible ways such as taking action when they see others being treated unfairly.

• Spend time together serving their community.

• Participate in political activities.

Everyone in the family plays a role in building family assets. Here are some things you can do to build your family assets:

• Find ways to show family members you care.

• Make building relationships a priority.

• Don't wait for "important moments" to have good conversations.

• Eat together.

• Plan regular family fun nights.

• Maintain meaningful family traditions.

• Let family members know what they can count on you to do.

• Use the news to bring up tough topics.

• Establish expectations that meet the four C's -- clear, consistent, completion and compassionate.

• Solve problems together.

• Prepare for inevitable changes.

• Give back to people and places that are meaningful to you.

If you feel your family needs to work on building assets, choose a couple of activities from the list and begin to incorporate them into your family life. Once you are working well in a particular area, choose another item. Be patient. Building family assets takes time. By laying a solid foundation now, your children will reap the benefits of a strong and healthy family for a lifetime.

Email Julie Baumgardner at

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