10 Secrets of Happy Families


There is no one way, one path, to a happy family. The rules of happiness change from family to family, and from culture to culture, but there are certain collective tenets that invite depth and meaning to our relationships.

1. Deposit the qualities into your relationships that you wish to withdraw. Think of the person as a bank account. For example, you want your child to be more patient and loving?  Deposit composure. Appreciation?  Notice what your beloved is doing right and deposit thank-you’s.  You will build up a fat account to withdraw from.images-1

2. Show up on time. It is a strong and vital message that says you will do what you say you will.

3. Be affectionate. Scratch backs, pull hair behind an ear, say ‘I love you’. Lounge together, hug, press close when reading together. If affection does not come naturally, practice it in tiny doses of touch.

4. Help decrease sibling rivalry by opting out of most conflicts. Many studies show that the more a parent interferes between siblings, the less close and more discord there is in the relationship. Sometimes it helps for a parent to mediate solutions by sitting the siblings down and asking them to define the problem, to repeat the other’s viewpoint, then brainstorm solutions; this means the kids, and not the parent, are the major investors in the answer and its outcome. Always step in when a conflict gets abusive or violent.

5. Appreciate each other. Sometimes it is the little things that can make or break our level of coping: showing gratitude for help, noticing the effort someone is making, or paying attention to the kindnesses in a day elevates our sense of feeling loved.

images-26. Build resiliency in your relationships. Accept life’s bumps, betrayals and skinned knees as part of the larger picture of a meaningful life. Do not fix all problems , most are not permanent and pervasive. Your assumption that a family member will deal just fine with an issue can make it so, and build self-confidence and perseverance.

7. Communicate. Listen with eye contact and open body language. Do not interrupt. Ask questions. Share your own perspective. Be vulnerable. Some of my most effective parenting happened when I told my teenagers that I was scared, and for me it always comes out as anger. Communication is one of the cornerstones of healthy relationships, even if it is a lurchy, uneven, process.

8. Accept the differences in one another. Maya Angelou says it best: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Acceptance is the present tense of love. It tells us we are precious as we are, not for who we could become.

9. Tend to your own life. As parents we often set aside our own needs for our children, yet adults need to belly laugh, stay up late, eat good food with friends and indulge their own passions and interests too. This creates a home climate that encourages health and vitality at its very roots.

10. Pay attention. You can’t push rewind on childhood. The dishes can wait, turn off the cell phone, limit computer and TV time, and step into the present where each moment is full and fleeting. We don’t march into adulthood with grateful childhood memories of clean houses and absent parents, we remember when mama dropped everything to hold us, when daddy pointed out the night stars, when the rules were broken and the singing began.images


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