I have previously written about a concept called family capacity. Basically, one measure of the strength of a family is how much a family can do together. Notice I say can do here, and not does.
But what kinds of things ought a family to have capacity to do? Here are four:
People need to enjoy themselves. Doing it together creates a strong family. Enjoying time together makes everything else on the list easier, so I will start here. Plus families can sometimes provide opportunities for certain experiences that wouldn’t be available otherwise. For example, some members with more means can help others enjoy an exotic trip they couldn’t afford on their own.
Family leisure capacity includes big things like annual vacations, and little things like sharing favorite online games together. One of the keys to building capacity (in addition to just doing it) is to create family leisure institutions.
An institution is a combination of patterns, expectations, organization, and means. For example, does your family have a vacation planning committee? Have you committed funds to it? Creating a standing planning committee instead of planning each vacation ad hoc helps to create capacity.
2. Crisis Management
On the other end of the spectrum is the family capacity to help each other in an emergency. Given recent world events, this should be top of everyone’s mind. It is important to just step up and do it, but it is also important to build crisis management institutions.
What kind of emergencies are family members likely to experience? Medical, financial, emotional? Is there a plan for who is going to step in and how the family will respond in these emergencies? Does the family as a whole have funds set aside, and rules for distributing those funds? Is everyone aware of these plans? Does everyone have a will? Who is the executor?
Does someone know what kind of insurance everyone has, or how to access passwords in an emergency? And again, is there a family crisis management committee to manage and plan for such circumstances?
3. Home Economics
By this term, I simply mean family engagement in each other’s day-to-day activities. For example, maybe there is one person in the family who helps everyone do their taxes, or landscaping. What kind of child care needs does every have? Do people get together to help each other repair the roof or clean the pool? Is there someone who tries to keep track of what is going on and coordinate all of this help (like, you guessed it, a committee)?
Last but not least, the family business. Do members of the family feel like they are going about the career solo, or do they have the weight of the family behind them? Do you invest and help in each other’s businesses? Do you start ventures together and help each other mitigate risk by sharing in each others successes and failures?