Ever wonder what makes a “happy” family? Or, what your family could do differently? Do you feel like your family is missing out on something better? The following is a list of “rules” that I give to families who are looking to strengthen their relationships and create a more peaceful and loving home:
- Have family dinner most nights. Dinner time is a time for the family to come together at the end of the day and share with each other. It is a time when you can discuss the highlights and low lights of the day, find out what is going on in your kid’s little world, and the latest news from your spouse. Granted, sometimes various commitments may make seven dinners together a week hard to accomplish, but the goal is to have family dinner at least 4-5 nights a week.
- Don’t watch TV during family dinner. As mentioned above, dinner time is family time, and TV is a distraction. TV gets in the way of meaningful conversation, and in fact, can impede healthy relationships by preventing adequate communication and exchange of emotion. Save television for before or after meal time.
- Have family traditions. Traditions are important to family happiness. It doesn’t matter what the tradition is as long as it is positive and everyone enjoys it. It could be the way you celebrate birthdays, good grades, a job promotion, etc. Traditions can also be found in the way holidays are celebrated, or what you do on the weekend.
- Respect each other and don’t tolerate anything less. Your six year old telling you to “shut-up” is not okay. Your ten year old slamming her door in your face and calling you names is also not okay. Sure, it is normal for kids to lose their cool and need to vent, but it is your job to teach them appropriate and healthy ways of doing so. The same rules apply to you as their parents — respect your children as individuals. Again, even the best parents lose their temper at one time or another, but it is essential to stay calm and model healthy behavior.
- Have fun together. This is one of the most important rules. Too often families get caught up in the day-to-day routines of work, school, homework, and bedtime schedules that they lose sight of the fun they could be having in between (and in some cases, during) required tasks. Families that spend time laughing together, playing together, and joking together typically report higher levels of overall happiness than families who don’t.
If you find that your family just isn’t as happy as you’d like, consider reaching out to a family therapist for some guidance.