Children in their middle years treasure their families and feel they are special and irreplaceable. Families provide children with a sense of belonging and a unique identity. Families are, or should be, a source of emotional support and comfort, warmth and nurturing, protection and security. Family relationships provide children with a critical sense of being valued and with a vital network of historical linkages and social support. Within every healthy family there is a sense of reciprocity—a giving and taking of love and empathy by every family member.
Families are much more than groups of individuals. They have their own goals and aspirations. They also are places where every child and adult should feel that he or she is special and be encouraged to pursue his or her own dreams; a place where everyone's individuality is permitted to flourish. Although every family has conflicts, all the family members should feel as though they can express themselves openly, share their feelings, and have their opinions listened to with understanding. In fact, conflicts and disagreements are a normal part of family life and are important insofar as they permit people to communicate their differences and ventilate their feelings.
The family instructs children and gives guidance about personal values and social behavior. It instills discipline and helps them learn and internalize codes of conduct that will serve them for the rest of their lives. It helps them develop positive interpersonal relationships, and it provides an environment that encourages learning both in the home and at school. It gives children a sense of history and a secure base from which to grow and develop. Yet, as important as these functions are, they do not happen automatically. Every parent knows it takes hard work to keep the family going as an effective, adaptive, and functional unit.