A family is one of the most meaningful groups a person can be apart of, but it’s also one of the most stressful undertakings in contemporary American society. With recent reports suggesting that childless marriages are happier than those with offspring, what’s a family—who wants to be happy—to do?
Good advice on how to make the most of your family life abounds. From the health and human services sector and the classroom to the research halls of the academy and the pulpit, it’s hard to find an arena of human life that doesn’t believe a happy family makes for a better society and a better life. Here are a handful of the more common characteristics that crisscross happy families, regardless of tax bracket, ethnicity or religion.
Families with consistently applied rules are happier ones. Children who know their limits and what is expected of them are much happier than their peers who must contend with oscillating expectations. Simply communicating to your children what you expect of them and following-through on making sure those expectations are met makes for a peaceful home environment and responsible kids, who can understand themselves within the family context—a skill that will greatly aid them in developing into quality adults.
It’s easy to let opportunities for personal development create a family life that is completely out of balance. Happy families understand this, and they ruthlessly guard their downtime and together time. It may be tempting to make sure your children are playing volleyball, taking piano, participating in the county science fair and making it to every Girl Scout meeting, but a full schedule can create an over-abundance of stress. Give yourself and your kids a break and have at least two nights a week where no one does anything outside of the home.
Human beings have built camaraderie, love and happiness over shared meals for millennia, and the family unit is perfect for continuing that trend. Satisfying the needs of the body with healthy, whole meals while talking and interacting about your days is a great way to maintain real and pertinent knowledge about what is going on in everyone’s life. Eating together also reinforces the idea and experience that family is a place where nourishment happens. While it’s true that contemporary life makes regularly shared meals a challenge, happy families work hard to get at least a couple of shared meals together each week.
Most members of a family experience very different days. Kids have the challenges and triumphs of a school day. Moms and dads have the demands of a workday. Regardless of what your family is up to, when you finally converge again within the same space, tell each otherstories. Carve out room for sharing and listening, and as a parent, set a positive precedent by telling your day’s hardships and struggles so that your children and partner will feel comfortable sharing the more difficult part of their days, too. Keep the TV off and the mobile devices pocketed or stored until everyone has heard at least a high and low of everyone’s day. Sharing stories in this way not only keeps you abreast of your kids’ friends, teachers, classes and more, it also builds empathy and connection between all the members of your family.
Families that play together have a sense of fun and togetherness that is hard to achieve through other means. Play builds communication and problem-solving skills, helps youngsters (and adults) learn one another’s—and their own—limits, all while building memories, reducing stress and fostering support among parents, children and siblings.
Love and Respect Between Parents
One of the most important characteristics of a happy family is the presence of mutual love and respect between parents. When parents show genuine love, affection and support for their partner, they set the stage for their children to love and respect both their parents, as well. It’s difficult for children to take a parent seriously if the other belittles, disregards or disrespects their partner. Besides modeling to children how to treat others, parental mutual love and respect makes the marriage or partnership stronger, which yields a stronger family as well.
A happy family is a blessing unlike any other, but it isn’t happened upon by accident. From guarding your mealtimes together to regularly engaging in play and storytelling, these tips for happiness will pull you, your children and your partner closer together and yield a family that you are ecstatic to be a part of.
About the Author: Bonnie Aerosdale is a contributing blogger with a graduate degree in human services. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist.