Health & Wellness

Habits for a Happier Family Life

Welcome to our new regular series in the Zebra - all about families.

Dr. Amy Fortney Parks

Alexandria, VA – Hey, families! Let’s get real – families are like LEGO blocks. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors—and they can be a pretty big mess sometimes! Our households have never been more diverse or more wonderfully confusing. But don’t sweat it. I’ve got some wise habits to help bring focus and fun to your family, no matter how funky it is!

Take the time to do things together.

First up, family time! Eating meals together is one of the best ways to strengthen your bond. Now, I know your teenagers might start dodging family time like it’s the plague—they’re just figuring out their role and searching for that sweet spot between connection and independence. Totally normal (and totally annoying). Don’t freak out if life gets in the way sometimes. Take a hike, walk the dog, paint a piece of furniture, start a puzzle—whatever gets your family doing something together! Remember, there are no prizes for juggling everything perfectly. Sometimes you have to choose, and the prize is family togetherness!

Talk to each other with respect and clarity.

Communication is key, my friends. When disagreements pop up, wise families talk it out and find a compromise. I’m a HUGE fan of the family meeting! Discussing ideas with respect—even if you agree to disagree—leads to increased intimacy and acceptance. Encourage everyone to speak their mind, even if their ideas are out there. Set clear ground rules for what’s cool to say so everyone knows how to act in the family meeting (and yes, we’ll tackle curse words in a future article).

Share responsibilities.

Teamwork makes the dream work! Sharing family responsibilities is crucial. This can be as simple as everyone taking a turn emptying the dishwasher or as big as picking up a neighbor’s mail. Everyone in the family pitches in. Successful families instill an attitude of serving each other, sometimes requiring members to put their own needs ‘on hold’ while they help another family member. This teaches thinking beyond oneself.

Foster patience and acceptance.

Embrace the crazy mix of beliefs in your family. Not everyone thinks the same way you do, and that’s okay. There’s so much “noise” in our lives that finding space to figure out what you truly believe, without outside influence, is tough. Just because you believe differently doesn’t mean one of you is wrong. Keep talking without blaming or criticizing. Everyone’s beliefs are important and should be accepted.

Encourage community involvement.

No family is an island. We all need a community of families, neighborhoods, and groups. Being active in your community provides essential support. Helping others without expecting anything in return builds a sense of belonging and boosts the self-esteem of the whole family. Let your kids see your involvement by voting and discussing issues.

When children learn to give without expecting anything in return, they become better family members and more valuable contributors to our world—we all need that!

Know when to ask for help. 

No family is 100% healthy all the time. Every family faces times or situations they can’t handle well. No one expects you to deal with everything by yourself (cough, except you – cough). There’s no amount of training that will tell you the best thing to do in every situation. A great first step is to ask a fellow parent for recommendations or support. If you don’t have a fellow parent to ask, make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician. Your child’s school can also be an amazing source of information and support.

Your parent’s heart is full of wisdom—Be wise!

Dr. Amy Fortney Parks, a native Alexandrian, has over 30 years of experience as an educator, psychologist, and clinical supervisor. She holds a PhD in Educational Psychology, specializing in child and adolescent developmental neuroscience. Got questions? Need support? Connect with Dr. Amy at @heydoctoramy or email [email protected]



Amy Parks

Dr. Amy Fortney Parks has over 30 years of experience as an educator, psychologist, and clinical supervisor. She holds a PhD in Educational Psychology, specializing in child and adolescent developmental neuroscience. Dr. Parks founded WISE Family Wellness and the Clinical Supervision Directory. She is a clinical supervisor, adjunct professor, international speaker, podcast host of *Supervision Simplified*, and soon-to-be author. A native Alexandrian, she enjoys reading teen fiction, mixing Bloody Marys, and hanging with friends who have boats. Connect with her on social @heydoctoramy

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