Most parents truly want nothing more for their children and their family than true happiness. That being said, with marriage, jobs, kids, bills, laundry and all of life’s other stressors, it is not always that easy to achieve or maintain. We try our best. We give in to immediate wishes and desires because we believe it will make our children happy, and that if they’re happy, our homes will be happier, too. This rarely works, and we find ourselves stuck in cycles of nagging, arguing, and resentment.
In order to really find lasting happiness in your family, you need to look at the bigger picture. It is not about giving in to an immediate want or trying to pacify anyone. It’s about finding healthy and meaningful ways to connect and care on an ongoing basis.
Here are some tips for how to have a happy family.
- Eat dinner together. Or breakfast. If that is not realistic for your family, then find some other meaningful time to connect on a regular basis. My kids have ADHD. The dinner table has never really been that much fun. Nobody can sit still for long, everybody interrupts and talks over one another. So, our special time to talk was always during the drive to school. I have many memories of very interesting and sometimes hilarious topics of discussion during car rides. Find whatever works for your family.
- Talk to each other, and more importantly, listen to each other. Talk about your day and your likes and dislikes. Ask a lot of open ended questions to your family members. Some families do a best/worst routine, where everyone talks about the best thing that happened all day and the worst thing that happened all day. It certainly gets everyone talking. Family meetings are an effective way to communicate likes and dislikes within the family, discuss problematic behaviors or negotiate rules. Really, whatever gets every talking and expressing themselves is what it’s all about.
- Take an active interest in one another’s interests and lives. Listen to what is going on in each person’s life and be interested in that. Don’t force your ideas on others, rather take time to hear theirs. Sign kids up for things that they are interested in, not the things you wish they’d do. Talk about these interests frequently. You could even learn about something that interests your child or partner so that you can have more interesting conversations. Or, you can ask them to teach you about it. If it’s an activity or interest that others can participate in, why not even give it a try yourself or as a family? Shared activities are a great way for families to form strong bonds.
- Find ways to reduce and minimize stress. Lay off of the constant nagging and pressure to be perfect and do everything. Have some fun. Whether it’s forgetting about the housework for the day and going on a hike or a picnic, or just sitting around the TV watching a movie together, find ways to de-stress. Make sure everyone is also getting plenty of alone time to decompress. Don’t over schedule your kids. Pay attention to their stress level and make changes if you find they aren’t able to manage all that is going on in their lives.
- Be a parent, not a friend. Having a healthy and open relationship with your children does not mean that you are their friend. Do not be afraid to say no or to step up and be the parent that your children need. Take charge and make sure to set clear rules, boundaries and limits, and make sure to follow through with appropriate discipline. Back down even once, and your children will quickly learn how to manipulate you to get what they want. And that ultimately does not make them happier. Children need rules, boundaries and limits in order to feel safe, secure and confident. That is what real happiness looks like.