When you think about it, who better to write a book about the wellness of a family than a husband and wife team who are mental health professionals and parents of two children?
Don MacMannis, with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and Debra Manchester MacMannis, M.S.W., specializing in family therapy and community mental health, are co-authors of How’s Your Family Really Doing? 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family. Much of the book is drawn from their more than 30 years’ experience as practicing psychotherapists. They state that their book “is intended to be a reference over the course of the lifetime of your family” and to “use it like you might a favorite cookbook.”
Before you even get to Chapter 1, you are asked to rate your family’s strengths on a scale of 1 to 5 in a Current Family Assessment. The assessment is based on the 10 keys referred to in the book’s subtitle. Each key consists of 50 statements and corresponds to a book chapter. Should you choose to make it a family affair and have everyone complete it, you can download copies of the assessment from their website, http://www.howsyourfamily.com. This would be, in my opinion, the only way to get a true portrait of a family, as everyone’s perspective would be brought to light in the same way. Too, it may be just the opportunity a family member has been waiting for in order to finally verbalize what he or she feels and may not have known before how to say.
In the first of the 10 keys, Talking and Listening, you will learn to communicate effectively. Productive interactions with family members can be realized by communicating any message using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Active listening – think “don’t interrupt” – is another companion in communication and may well be the most difficult to master, especially in the heat of the moment. In addition, nonverbal communication – facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc. – that does not match the words being uttered sends a mixed message to the listener. I would think that success with the nine remaining keys is highly dependent on mastering all aspects of this first key.
So, what are the other keys to a happy loving family?
- Expressing feelings;
- Adapting to change;
- Sharing time together;
- Who’s in charge?;
- Balancing closeness and distance;
- Accepting differences;
- Seeing the positive;
- Effective problem-solving; and
- Parenting together
Stories illustrating the points of each key — as well as wonderful quotes by people you may or may not have heard of — are sprinkled throughout and make good resting places for contemplation. The end of each chapter contains a bulleted list, providing an at-a-glance nice summary that can come in very handy when rereading a chapter may be impractical. And then, just when you thought you were done, you will be asked to use the 1 to 5 rating scale again, except this time you will assess the family in which you grew up. This allows you to see how your childhood experiences may have an effect on your current family patterns.
The authors have given us an invaluable resource for improving the health and well-being of familial relationships in How’s Your Family Really Doing? But daily interaction with people outside our families — friends, colleagues, the kids’ teachers and the like — also can be improved by using the book’s advice.
How’s Your Family Really Doing? – 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family
By Don MacMannis, PhD and Debra Manchester MacMannis, M.S.W.
Two Harbors Press: August 23, 2011
Paperback, 232 pages