INSIDE: 45 Proven strategies to help you get the happy family life you always dreamed of!
Life can be stressful these days, and the pressures we face can take their toll on our home life and stop us from having a happy family. How often do you find yourself unintentionally snapping at those you love as you try to cook dinner while drowning in laundry and fretting over your never-ending to-do list?
Amidst this tension, all any of us really want is to be happy. Being part of a strong and united family group features highly on most people’s wish list. But the reality is often quite different, and many families find themselves somehow disconnected from one another and not particularly content.
But it’s crucial to recognise that happiness isn’t an optional extra in life. It’s an essential requirement for good health and wellbeing.
A study by Sonja Lyubomirsky and her research team at the University of California, has shown that a person’s level of happiness directly correlates to their chances of success in later life.
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Being part of a happy family also has a significant impact on our kids’ ability to build resilience and deal with the many challenges they will face. In their research at the University of California at Berkeley, Jeanne and Jack Block found that happy kids are more likely to adapt to change and recover from hard times.
Given how essential it is to be part of a strong and stable household to protect our wellbeing, how do we even begin to create the happy family unit we all crave so badly?
This is a simple question, with a complicated answer. Building a happy family is like building a house. It requires firm foundations and a multitude of bricks to make it resilient and long-lasting.
View each brick as an aspect of family life, constructed individually and then brought together to form a robust, stable and connected family unit.
Building a family such as this takes commitment, dedication and hard work. But it’s the most important job you will ever have as a parent. Its impact will be profound on you and those you love, both now and in the future.
Happy families are far from flawless. But they set goals and have values that they work towards achieving together. They live intentionally and with a sense of purpose, and when they do make mistakes, they have a strategy to get back on track.
In this post, I’ll outline some proven strategies that are effective in creating strong and happy families. I’ll also offer some practical tips on how to apply these within your own home. My hope is that these can help you to reconnect with those you love, create the levels of happiness you all deserve and help your family to thrive.
This is a detailed post, so if you are short of time, please use the content list below to jump to the sections which you feel may be most relevant to you:
Table of Contents
- Reset for a Happy Family
- Happy Families Practise Self-Care
- A Happy Family Needs a Solid Foundation
- Acceptance and Commitment is Key to a Happy Family
- Time Well Spent
- How Happy Families Communicate
- How Happy Families Live Harmoniously
- Successful Routines and Schedules
- Resolving Family Conflict & Effective Discipline
- Instilling Family Values
- Family Traditions and Celebrations
- Friends and Extended Family
- Happy Home-Making
- Final Thoughts
- You Might Also Love…
Reset for a happy family
Have a family meeting if you need to reset
If your family feels disconnected and struggles with ongoing tensions, then a good first step is to get together and talk about it. How this is done will vary depending on the age of your kids, and the different personalities of your family members, but it’s essential to find a way to open up the channels of communication.
You could ask your family to sit down together to have an open and honest discussion. Or it might work best to go for a walk and talk at the same time. Choose a method that feels right for you.
Be sure to maintain a positive and productive atmosphere. Allow everyone to speak and be heard. Start by discussing your family values. What’s important to each of you and why?
These may include being committed to each other, honesty, respect, integrity and hard work. A family who agrees on its core values and lives by them, creates unity and a sense of identity.
Chat about the difficulties you each face. How could you work together to overcome these?
Encourage everyone to speak honestly but not critically; to listen carefully and empathetically and apologise as necessary. Remember that kids are not born with these skills. As their parent, you need to model these for them and lead by example.
Set achievable goals and decide on manageable steps that you could take as a family to reach these. Agree to draw a line in the sand and start anew. Remember to schedule regular family meetings to review progress and adjust your goals accordingly.
Happy families practise Self care
Get yourself happy
If you want to bring happiness into your home, it’s essential to care for your own emotional wellbeing first. The same is true for all your family members. You must all learn to value yourselves as well as each other. Only then, will you be able to create a truly happy family.
Recognise that taking the time to look after yourself is time well spent and encourage each other to do the same. Find ways to manage your stress levels, indulge in some self-care and have fun with friends.
As a family, work together to provide opportunities for each of you to do what you love and spend a little time getting yourselves happy.
a happy family needs a solid foundation
Prioritise your other half
Recognise that a strong and stable family starts with you, the parents. When you and your partner genuinely commit to one another, it creates a sense of security that benefits not only you, but the rest of your family too.
All too often, parents put their relationship with each other on the back burner. But this can be a fundamental mistake. The reality is that your relationship is the base on which the rest of your family unit is built. So, take the time to nurture it; to make your partner feel loved and cherished.
Work together to provide a living example of how a healthy relationship works. Let your kids see you take an interest in and make an effort with each other. Show them how you respect and love one another and work together as a team.
A strong parental bond not only provides your kids with a clear blueprint for their own lives, but it also gives them the stability they need to thrive. It’s the healthiest gift you can give your children and is essential in creating a happy family.
So, in the business of everyday life, try to remember to make your partner feel appreciated. Smile when they enter the room and give them a kiss when they leave for the day. Thank them for all they do and be supportive. Avoid making fun of them in public and be gracious enough to let the little things go.
Prioritise time alone together. Schedule in date nights and do something fun. Research by Brower and Skogrand from Utah State University shows that most couples experience a positive impact on their relationships after going on a date, including “improved communication, increase in affection and gratitude”.
Professor Arthur Aron recommends that couples try new and exciting activities on their date nights. His research shows that those that do this seem happier in their marriages than those that stick to their familiar date night pursuits.
So, try something new. But if you’re stuck for ideas about what exciting date night experiences you could have, let me help you out. I’ve put together a list of some fun but unusual date night suggestions. It’s completely free, so why not grab your copy for some inspiration?
Acceptance and Commitment is Key to a Happy Family
Accept one another for who you are
Every family is made up of people with different personalities, character trait and interests – and yours is no exception. One of the secrets to creating a happy family is to encourage all its members to embrace these differences; to appreciate and accept each other just as they are. If you have one child who is academically gifted while another is amazingly kind and empathetic, view these as equally valuable qualities.
Regard one another’s differences as adding to the richness and diversity of life. After all, it would be incredibly dull if you were all the same!
When you can accept each other as you are without judgement or competition, it creates a home where each person feels like they truly belong; free to express themselves and respected for their ideas, insights and opinions.
Happy families commit to one another
Commitment to one another is at the core of a happy family. Knowing that there is always someone to turn to in both good times and bad, creates a sense of security, trust and wellbeing for all concerned.
But commitment requires sacrifice. There may be times when you need to drop everything and change your plans if your family needs you. But this is a small price to pay for those you love, and it will reinforce the bonds between you.
Time well spent
Make time for one another
Family is all about relationships, and these can’t be strengthened if you never spend time together. Quality family time creates memories. If you miss your chance to do this as your children grow up, you will never get the opportunity again.
So prioritise time together; don’t just allow it to be pushed out by the business of everyday life. Remember that to be a happy family, you all have to be there.
Finding ways to carve out family time can be challenging as your kids get older. It’s all too easy to give in when they would rather be in their room or hanging out with their friends. Although it’s essential to allow them these freedoms as they grow more independent, it’s vital to maintain a sense of balance.
As kids become more self-sufficient, it’s easy to prioritise work or other commitments, and allow our kids to entertain themselves. But this is also a mistake that can lead to a disconnection between you.
Take steps to make sure you spend quality time with your family, no matter how old your kids are or how busy everyone is.
Agree on mutually convenient times when you can all come together, and schedule these into your diaries. Don’t allow people to opt out without good reason. Instead, encourage the whole family to value these times together and treat them with the respect they deserve.
It’s important to vary what you do together to appeal to all tastes. Maybe you like to go out for dinner while your daughter prefers the cinema. Perhaps your son likes bike riding while your husband enjoys a county walk. By organising a range of activities, you are more likely to ensure that everyone has a good time.
Happy families eat together
Families that eat together stick together – I really believe this to be true. Sharing family meals every day is fundamental to creating a happy family. And there is plenty of research to back this up.
A study by the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University showed that kids who have dinner with their parents at least five times per week feel closer to their families. They also tend to eat more healthily, have fewer problems with drugs and alcohol, and do better academically.
So, make family meals a norm in your home and don’t allow participation to be optional. Get everyone to help prepare meals, set the table and then sit down together to eat (with a ban on phones!)
Don’t allow your kids to disappear off to their room with a plate of food or just sit in front of the TV. Use mealtimes to catch up and enjoy one another’s company.
Share stories about your day. Use this as a time to discuss any worries any of you might have, and to work together to find solutions.
Watch less TV
Although watching TV can be a great way to relax, too much of it can damage a family’s wellbeing. The Journal of Economic Psychology found that those who watch a lot of TV reported lower life satisfaction, higher material aspirations, and greater anxiety levels than those who didn’t.
When kids have TVs in their bedrooms, it can result in families becoming disconnected as they are far less likely to watch together. Instead, they spend hours of potentially valuable family time apart in different rooms.
A study published in Paediatric Research found that young kids who have TVs in their rooms are often less sociable, prone to increased levels of emotional distress and depressive symptoms as they get older.
So be mindful about the amount of TV that your family watch, and avoid having it on continuously. Instead, be selective about the programmes you choose, and try to enjoy these together as a family. Admittedly, this requires some compromise as you’ll need to take turns in deciding what to watch. But that’s a small price to pay, as by being together, you’ll help keep your family connected and be more likely to achieve a happier family unit.
A happy family has fun together
When a family is happy, they laugh and have fun together; they enjoy and appreciate each other. Encourage your family to do the same, and don’t let the simple pleasures in life pass you by.
Create opportunities to have fun and be silly. Don’t allow your family life to become stale and boring. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a family and relationship counsellor, describes it perfectly when he says,
“The great bane of family life is boredom, and that is what leads to dysfunction, affairs, and kids wanting to be with their friends over family.”
Have a family holiday
Holidays are fundamental to maintaining a happy family. They allow you to put your day-to-day life on hold and de-stress. By sharing a few precious, uninterrupted day together, you can have an adventure, strengthen family bonds and create memories which will last a lifetime.
Even if you can’t afford to go away for a holiday, make it a priority to set aside a few days to stop work, and spend some uninterrupted time with your family. Arrange some day trips and fun activities which you can do from home. Make sure everyone has a say in choosing what to do.
The benefits of spending this time together will be huge, both for you and your family.
how happy families communicate
Make time to talk
Effective communication is the cornerstone to a happy family. When you come together, encourage everyone to put down their devices and properly talk: Engage, swap stories; really get to know one another.
Nothing makes a person feel more valued than knowing that they are listened to by those around them. By showing an interest in each other’s lives, you can become deeply connected and invested in one other’s success and wellbeing.
Even when you can’t be together, use technology to maintain open communication. A quick text lets another family member know that you are thinking of them.
A family WhatsApp group is a great way to keep up to date with family news and give each of you a sense of belonging. In a busy world, it can help maintain family bonds and ensure you all feel supported.
Encourage a balance between free expression and respect for one another
It’s so important to discuss emotions with kids from a young age. Emotional intelligence doesn’t just happen on its own. It needs to be nurtured and fostered in children.
Take time to talk to your kids about what they are feeling and why. Help them to understand their emotions and to come up with practical strategies to deal with them. Empathetically label and validate their feelings for them. This will help them to feel understood and supported.
It’s crucial to allow all members of the family space and opportunities to express their emotions; to feel what they feel. But it’s also essential to set boundaries.
Children need to learn how to say how they feel without being rude, disrespectful or hurtful to other family members. When they cross these boundaries, help your kids to empathise; to understand how their words may make another person feel and to apologise if necessary.
Remember to model respectful behaviour yourself to provide your kids with an example of how it should be done.
Be honest with your kids
Don’t hide reality from your kids. Instead, be honest, although mindful to do this in an age-appropriate way. If money is tight, for example, then say so. In this way, your kids will know that you are being genuine with them. They will trust you to always tell them the truth.
When you are honest, it helps your kids to understand the reasons behind the decisions you make. If you aren’t going on a holiday this year or aren’t filling your shopping trolley with extra goodies when you go to the supermarket, they will know why.
However, you must reassure them that you will work through whatever difficulties you face together and come out stronger on the other side.
If they are old enough, and if you feel it is appropriate, consider involving your kids in making decisions about the family. By valuing their opinions in this way, they will feel respected. It will also help them to feel a sense of control and responsibility.
Together, you can decide on strategies as a family to proactively deal with the challenges you collectively face.
If money is short, you could come up with fun free activities to do together at the weekend, or a list of family favourite low-cost meals. In doing this, you will feel united, and everyone can play their part in helping.
By working together, happy families stay close and help each other out through the good and the bad; the ups and the downs of life.
Although it’s essential to be open and honest with your kids, try to avoid continually fretting and talking about your problems in front of them. This can bring the mood of the family down and lead to children feeling worried and insecure. Instead, make them aware of the situation, but then strive to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook.
Don’t avoid difficult conversations
As a parent, there are times when it’s important to have difficult but necessary conversations with your kids. Whether it’s talking about periods, drugs or safe sex, it’s crucial not to sidestep these issues.
Rather try to promote a sense of openness within your family and don’t allow any subject to become taboo. It may feel embarrassing and awkward at first, but the rewards are worth it.
Not only will your kids be safer through being better informed, but they will learn that you are open to having these types of discussions with them and that no topic is off-limits. Knowing that they can talk to you about anything is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids and is fundamental to maintaining a happy family.
Happy families keep the volume low
For some families, shouting seems the only way they can communicate. It becomes a habit, resulting in a toxic and hostile environment. A house filled with angry voices is not a happy place to be, and it’s detrimental to everyone’s emotional wellbeing. Such families soon become disconnected and resentful of one another.
But learning not to raise your voice when your kids drive you up the wall is easier said than done! Much as we try, many of us find it almost impossible not to see red and shout when they press our buttons.
The reasons why yelling becomes our automatic response when our kids misbehave can be complex. It can take time to unravel these and learn a more constructive approach.
In my book, The Peaceful Parent, I explain why many of the strategies we use to control our kids don’t work. I help you understand why it’s so easy to lose control and resort to shouting.
I provide all the practical tools you need to change these ingrained patterns of behaviour and become a calmer and more effective parent.
Finally, I equip you with proven step-by-step strategies to deal with your kids’ challenging behaviour.
It’s essential to remember that yelling undermines stability and kids need stability to thrive.
Develop a sense of empathy
The ability to see a situation from another’s perspective is at the heart of understanding what they are thinking and feeling, and why they do what they do.
Families who have a strong ability to empathise with one another are far more likely to get along and be happy.
Help your kids to develop their sense of empathy from an early age. Talk to them about what they are going through and how they feel. Help them to do the same with their friends and family. If they fall out with a friend or sibling, ask them how they think the other may be feeling and what they could do to make them feel better.
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Be kind and gentle
There are times when we seem to save our harshest words for those we love the most. Within families, this can become a kind of ‘bad habit,’ where people snap at each other, saying unkind things, almost without thinking.
So often, family members talk to each other in a way that they would never dream of speaking to anyone else. They know each other’s vulnerabilities and weak spots, and it can be all too easy to play on these, causing much pain.
Rather than allowing the use of unkind words to become the norm in your family, nip it in the bud, as and when you notice it. Such talk undermines mutual respect and quickly leads to disharmony.
Encourage your family to be kind to one another, and mindful about how they communicate. Make it a family rule that you all speak to each other respectfully, remembering simple manners like, ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’. This applies equally to the adults as well as the kids!
From a young age, teach children that they don’t always have to win when they fall out with their siblings; that it’s ok to give in sometimes. Model this by allowing them to win the occasional disagreement with you. I don’t, of course, mean that you should always let them get their own way!
In the everyday business of life, it can be easy for families to forget to show one another how much they care. But feeling loved is an essential component of a happy family.
So, give your nearest and dearest a hug sometimes and encourage them to do the same for each other. This does wonders for reducing stress and strengthening family bonds.
Non-contact affection is equally important. A quick smile or a knowing look can also be a powerful tonic and help keep your family feeling close and connected.
find little ways to make each other happy
Small acts of kindness towards one another can work wonders in keeping your family feeling close. So look for ways to do little things for each other. Maybe make someone a cup of tea when they’re not expecting it or run your partner a bath. Bring your kids a treat back from the shops or let them choose what to watch on TV.
It really doesn’t take much, but these simple gestures can be powerful in keeping love and harmony flowing through your home.
It can be so easy to become impatient and frustrated with your family. We often seem to have a much shorter fuse at home than we do in any other aspect of our lives. But you need to guard against impatience as it breeds stress which, as we all know, can be damaging in so many ways.
Family members may not always do things when we want them to, or in the way we would prefer, but we need to remember that none of us are perfect. We can all do things which frustrate those around us sometimes.
So, practice patience and encourage your family to do the same. Learn to take a deep breath in challenging moments and try not to fly off the handle.
Look at the situation from the other person’s perspective: there may be good reasons why they haven’t yet done as you asked.
Even if there are no justifiable excuses for the delay, remember that words said in a flash of impatient anger can often be hurtful and lead to deep-rooted resentment.
Young children are often naturally impulsive and self -centred. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s instinctive; a survival mechanism to help them ensure that their needs are met. But as they grow, it’s crucial to help them consider the needs of others as well as their own.
Families are happiest when each person is willing to be considerate of others, show a little self-control and not automatically put their own needs first.
Rather than finishing all the biscuits in the packet, they might remember to leave some for others or offer them around. Instead of playing their music at top volume, they might consider how this will impact everyone else and keep it down.
When you notice your family members engaging in impulsive or selfish behaviours, encourage them to develop some self-control and recognition of the needs and wishes of others. As ever, the best way to teach is to lead by example.
Judging others brings out the worst in us. It makes us self-righteous and arrogant. It removes all sense of compassion and empathy and can lead to a cold and heartless outlook.
When we feel judged by someone, it plays on our insecurities and makes us shy away from that person. Judgement within families can have severe consequences and lead to relationships being ruined.
So, encourage your family not to judge one another or those around them. Instead, embrace one another’s differences. Accept that you may all make different choices, have contrasting opinions, but that these are all valid and should be respected.
Strive towards being more open-minded, allowing those around you to live as they choose, free from condemnation and judgement.
When each person can move away from believing that they are always right or that their way is the best, families are far more likely to be harmonious and happy.
Give each other space
A happy family recognises when a family member just needs a bit of space. After all, we all have bad days when we are perhaps not at our best.
Encourage your family to give each other some breathing room when needed. Don’t hound or nag them if all they want is a bit of time alone. Then when they are ready, welcome them back and don’t hold their need for a bit of distance against them.
Pull together when things are tough
Happy families rely on each other. In good times and bad, they lean on one another and pull together when things are tough. This makes them resilient.
Nothing gives a person a greater sense of security than knowing that their family are there for them if needed, no matter what.
Teach your family to care for and support one another, both practically and emotionally. Sometimes just having someone to share a problem with is enough.
But there may be moments in life when we need our family to drop everything, pull out all the stops, and do whatever it takes to get us through a crisis. These are the times when strong families come into their own and show what they are made of.
Be flexible and open to change
It’s inevitable that your family will change over time. As your kids grow older, they will leave home, new members will join the family, and older ones may die.
Your family’s happiness will depend on your ability to adapt and embrace these changes. So, don’t be rigid in your expectations. Instead, remain flexible and accommodate everyone’s changing needs, while staying connected to ensure your relationships remain healthy.
successful routines and schedules
Develop family routines
Bring a bit of routine and structure to your family’s day so that everyone knows what’s likely to happen and when.
Routines can help everyone to understand what’s expected of them, thereby reducing potential family conflicts. This can be as simple as setting a dinner time for 5pm, deciding that the dishwasher should be emptied after breakfast or that the dog should be walked by 4pm.
It can help to use family routine charts to remind everyone what is happening and when. These can be especially useful for younger kids who can use them as a point of reference. This can help them to become more independent and develop a sense of responsibility.
Routine charts can also dramatically reduce the need for you to nag your kids, which can only help to keep your family happy! I’ve created some handy free daily routine charts for kids to help you with this. So why not download them and put them into action today?
Involve everyone in household chores
Involve the whole family in getting the household chores done. By sharing the load, not only will the housework be more fun, but it will get done more quickly, and stop the entire burden of it falling to one person.
Sharing chores is also an excellent opportunity for the family to work together and chat, further developing those family bonds.
Everyone can get involved, even your toddler, if you have one. If you need help deciding what kinds of chores a toddler could help with, I’ve created a free list of perfect chores for toddlers to inspire you!
To prevent squabbles and to spread the load fairly between family members, you could try using a wall chart or chore wheel. Here’s a free chore wheel I’ve created for you to download. Simply move the wheel on one space each day to ensure that everyone has their turn at doing the different tasks around the home.
Don’t overload your schedule
Life can be hectic, so don’t add to the stress by overloading your schedule beyond that which is essential.
The secret to a happy family is to reduce stress. Don’t pack your kids’ days with too many afterschool activities. Instead, be selective and allow them to choose the ones that matter to them the most – or try doing some afterschool activities together.
Why not go for a swim, a bike ride or take the dog for a walk? Perhaps you could take up a new craft project together.
Guard against being too prescriptive and be prepared to adjust your schedule as needed.
Above all, be sure to allow for some relaxed family time, where you can just hang out together and do whatever takes your fancy.
resolving family conflict & effective discipline
Set boundaries and use natural consequences
As well as instilling strong family values, it’s crucial to create firm boundaries for your children. According to the US National Research Library of Medicine, kids feel insecure when they don’t have clear limits.
Although testing the boundaries you set is a natural part of their development, your kids need to learn to do this respectfully; to accept that you, their parent, is ultimately in charge.
When kids have limits set for them, it ultimately leads to less conflict within the home, as they learn to adjust their behaviour according to what is expected of them.
Be fair and consistent in your expectations and use natural and logical consequences for unacceptable behaviour. This is far more effective than using punishment to control your kids.
If done correctly, the use of a gentle but firm parenting approach will result in your kids being reluctant to disappoint you. This is not achieved through fear and domination, but rather through your kids developing a deep respect for you. Remember that respect from your kids cannot be demanded – it can only be earned.
Ultimately, it’s crucial to remember that your children’s future happiness is strongly affected by the strategies you use to raise them. Research has shown that people who perceived their parents to be less psychologically controlling and more caring as they were growing up are more likely to be happy and satisfied as adults.
If you need more specific help with this, my book, The Peaceful Parent is packed with advice on how to use positive parenting strategies to set boundaries and use consequences to raise a happy and respectful family.
Encourage sibling harmony
In many respects, sibling rivalry is a natural and expected part of life. But if left unchecked, conflicts between siblings can damage relationships and lead to bitterness and resentment. So, it’s essential to help your kids overcome their differences to maintain a happy family.
To minimise sibling rivalry, be careful not to favour one child over another, and avoid comparing them to each other. Instead, allow their individual personalities to bloom and appreciate them for who they are.
Find ways to encourage your kids to cooperate rather than compete. For example, get them to tidy away their toys together, or both help you prepare a meal. Avoid setting them up in competition against one another.
Treat them fairly, although this doesn’t mean that they always have to be equal. For example, a younger sibling may object to being sent to bed early. You can explain that this is simply due to their age and that they need more sleep. However, by pointing out that their older sibling has more chores because they are older, this will probably be viewed as fair by all concerned.
Regularly arrange some quality one-to-one time with each child. From time to time, ask them to tell you what they both love and find annoying about their siblings. This will help you keep an eye on their relationships. If you identify any issues, work together as a family to find ways of ironing then out.
Actively model the kind of relationships you want for your children to have with each other. Positively engage with them and others, so that they can learn from your example. Sometimes kids just can’t work out an alternative way to behave when they are angry or upset and need you to show them a better way.
Happy families deal with family conflict effectively
Resolving disagreements can be challenging. Success is dependent on love, mutual respect and good communication. Happy families deal with conflict in a way that does not tear at the fabric of the family relationships themselves.
When conflicts arise, ask everyone involved to take a moment alone to cool down. This could be just 5 minutes to breathe and collect their thoughts.
Then, encourage each person to listen to one another; to try and understand the other’s point of view and how they are feeling.
Be sure to listen carefully to all opinions and give everyone an equal opportunity to speak.
Work together to brainstorm solutions and try to find a resolution that works for everyone.
Sometimes moving on from an argument can be the hardest part for those involved, but it’s crucial to clear the air and let go of grudges. Speak to your kids about what it means to hold a grudge, how this can be bad for their mental health and a danger to their relationships.
There are times when, try as we may, we can struggle to overcome friction within the family. For a clear, step-by-step approach to managing persistent conflict with your kids, please download my free guide. I’ve found this approach so useful with my own family. I hope it helps you too.
Apologise when necessary
A genuine apology can work wonders in healing rifts within families. Knowing how, when and why to say sorry doesn’t come naturally. It’s a learnt process.
All too often, parents make the mistake of demanding an apology from their young children without them having any sense of the meaning of the words they are being asked to say. This can lead to kids’ going through the motions’; apologising because they have been told to and not because they mean it.
But it’s important that children learn how to apologise properly when they need to, and for this to be heartfelt. Their ability to do this starts with them observing their parents and older siblings putting this into practice.
If a child sees the adults in their life apologise when they have gone wrong, they are far more likely to follow suit. So, say sorry when you need to, to your partner, your friends and your kids. Many parents dislike the idea of apologising to their kids, believing that this will undermine their authority. But nothing could be further from the truth, and a willingness to do this is crucial to meaningful relationships and sustaining a happy family.
Forgive when needed
It can be difficult to forgive members of your family when they have hurt you. But it’s worth the effort as it can heal wounds, stop grudges and resentment from building up and being carried for years.
When a person can forgive, they have the enviable ability to let go and move on. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, says that, “Forgiving people are less likely to be hateful, depressed, hostile, anxious, angry, and neurotic.”
Of course, these are all qualities that we would love for our families to have, but you need to develop a culture of forgiveness to achieve this. Once again, it’s important to lead from the front. Show your kids how you don’t hold grudges and are prepared to let things go.
Obviously, there are times in life when people seriously hurt us and forgiving them may not be possible. But when you can, try to make this a fundamental principle upon which your family operates.
Don’t argue in front of the kids
Although some bickering is inevitable, try not to argue in front of your kids. Being raised by parents who continually row can make children feel vulnerable and insecure.
If your kids do witness an argument, it’s important to apologise to them. Explain that you have just had a disagreement, that it’s normal for people to fall out sometimes, but reassure them that they don’t need to worry.
instilling family values
Expect effort and not perfection
We should all put our best effort into what we do and shouldn’t accept anything less from our kids. But this doesn’t mean that any of us need to achieve perfection.
Perfectionism can cause stress and tension within families. Instead, focus on praising effort.
As long as everyone is trying their hardest, then that is good enough.
Celebrate your family’s achievements, no matter how small. Acknowledging the effort that went into achieving these, and you will be taking a big step towards having a very happy family.
Happy families are optimistic
If you want a happy family, then maintain a positive outlook on life. We all know how draining it is to be around negative people. Instead, encourage and model optimism within your family.
When families have a positive way of looking at life, they tend to be less stressed and happier than those who are endlessly pessimistic. A study by Atienza, Stephens, and Townsend 2002, found that even in the most difficult of times, when a person is able to be optimistic about the future, they can reduce the stress felt by their family by up to 60 per cent.
So, avoid creating an atmosphere of gloom within your family. Although it’s important to discuss and tackle the challenges you face, try not to continually dwell on the negatives. Consider the impact of such negativity and strive towards developing a more positive outlook instead.
Develop a gratitude practice
A grateful family is a happy family. In our modern society, it’s easy to take so much for granted. By developing a culture of gratitude, you will teach your kids to recognise, appreciate and be thankful for all they have.
As a family, think of a way to establish a gratitude practice in your home. For many, this might mean taking a moment to share what you are grateful for each day around the dinner table or perhaps you would prefer a gratitude jar.
Encourage your family to use their chosen practice to express all that they are grateful for in their lives, no matter how big or small, and to show their appreciation and love for one another. This can massively strengthen family bonds and help you to raise happy and grateful, rather than entitled kids.
If you need some inspiration, I have put together this free family gratitude guide to help you. It’s packed with practical tips and ideas about how to create a family gratitude practice. I hope you find it useful.
If you want a happy family, it’s crucial to teach them to be generous, kind and thoughtful human beings. A great way to do this is to get involved with a charity.
My family and I sponsor a child through a charity called Compassion. I have found this has been wonderful in helping my kids understand how lucky they are compared to poorer children around the world.
We exchange letters with the child and receive photos and updates. It gives us a tangible connection and helps us realise the difference we can make to another person’s life. Perhaps you could consider doing the same or find another charity that your family resonates with.
Being charitable not only benefits those less fortunate, but it helps kids develop a sense of empathy, to think of others and to appreciate all they have.
It’s important to realise that giving to charity is a learnt behaviour. Aaron Hanson, Director of Development at Shriners for Children Medical Center explains that, “the developmental milestone of putting others before oneself is significant and can be a predictor of greater generosity, positivity, perseverance and altruism later in life.”
Besides, when we do something for others, it makes us feel good, which can contribute to our feeling of wellbeing. This study by Atkin, Hamlin and Dunn in 2012 showed that giving leads to happiness, even in very young children. So, if you want to increase your family’s happiness, come together and do something for others.
family traditions and celebrations
Establish family traditions and rituals
Some of the happiest families have strong traditions and rituals which help to give them a sense of identity and belonging. Their predictable and routine nature makes the family feel rooted and secure. They look forward to these traditions, enjoy preparing for them and then spending time together when the events arrives.
Barbara Fiese, PhD, from Syracuse University in New York explains that, “Rituals tend to bring family members close together because they are repeated over time.” She goes on to say, “They can be unique to your own family such as going for bagels on Saturday morning, a weekly pizza night, or even a family song.”
So, work on establishing some fun traditions with your family. Try decorating a tree with eggs at Easter, introducing a new Christmas tradition or just having some private family jokes. It doesn’t matter what they are, but all these little rituals can bring you joy, and contribute massively to having a happy family.
Take every opportunity you can to celebrate with your family – and don’t just honour the big things. Take time to celebrate all the little wins in life too, from a good mark at school to creating a fantastic piece of art. Develop an environment where the whole family can share their successes with each other and are made to feel proud.
friends and extended family
Be sociable to increase family happiness
We are sociable beings, so it’s essential for families to connect, not only with each other, but also with the wider community. As a family, be outward-looking, make friends and socialise with those around you.
Having friends and spending time with other people will do wonders for your family’s mental health and wellbeing, so get out there and be sociable.
If you don’t have many friends, find ways to meet new people. Perhaps think about joining a church or visit the local toddler group. Try taking up new hobbies, join a choir or maybe a book club. Encourage your kids to do the same. Could they make new friends by taking up a sport or joining a youth club?
Open up your home to friends and family and make it feel like a welcoming place. Make sure that your kids’ friends are also happy to come over, and welcome them warmly.
Spend time with your extended family
Humans were never intended to live in small nuclear units, so it’s crucial to keep connected to your extended family members. There’s much support and wisdom to gained from them.
All too often, families can drift apart, especially when they don’t live near each other. So, make a point of staying connected, and if possible, spend time together regularly.
Family bonds can only be strengthened by interacting with one another.
By socialising with your wider family, your kids will get a chance to bond with them. You never know, some of these relationships could turn out to be fundamental in their lives. A study by Colarossi in 2001, discovered that children find that the presence of a trusted non-parental adult increases their feelings of support and life satisfaction by over 30 per cent.
Celebrate your family history
Make sure your kids know where they came from. Research your family history and ask questions of older family members. By sharing stories about your ancestors, not only will you keep their memory alive, but your kids will feel more rooted and connected to the family.
In learning about their ancestry, your kids might come to recognise particular personality traits which they may have inherited from those who came before them. This could help them to understand themselves better. For example, I have learnt that some of my ancestors were writers. Perhaps that explains why I enjoy writing too.
Make your house a home
How does your home make you feel? Ask your family the same question. Hopefully, the place where you live fills you all with a sense of peace, contentment and security. But maybe it’s cluttered and chaotic: not at all what you wish for it to be.
In their research paper, The Science of a Happy Home, Resi found that 81% of people who were most happy at home, also felt that their homes were an accurate reflection of who they were.
So, if you love vibrant colours but live in a magnolia house, maybe adding some colour would make it feel more like a space in which you belong. If plants bring you joy, but there are none in your home, then add some.
Take some time to think about the personality and interests of all members of your family and how these are reflected in your house. If your home doesn’t mirror who you are, what could you do to improve this?
Make sure your home is clean, tidy and organised. All too often our houses can become a dumping ground, especially when we lead busy lives. Be mindful that a chaotic environment causes stress. So, declutter and get rid of anything that never gets used.
Try to optimise your space. Families with enough room are more likely to be happy. Ensure that there are places to be quiet and cosy, where you can all relax and unwind. But don’t just focus on aesthetics. Make sure any furniture you choose is comfortable and practical.
Ensure that there is enough light and that your home is warm and well ventilated.
Make good use of any outdoor space you have to create a garden that feels relaxed.
Make your home feel like a place where you would be happy for people to visit so that you can socialise with ease and feel relaxed when you have visitors.
Get a pet to boost family happiness
Nothing brings more joy to my family than our pets. They are such an important part of our lives, providing endless comfort and companionship.
Our dogs make sure we get plenty of exercise too. Long country walks allow us to spend time together and bond as a family. Some of our best conversations are had when we are out walking.
Having animals in the home brings a sense of security and companionship, which can help you through the many trials of life. They can boost your family’s mental health and wellbeing too, protecting against loneliness, and helping to reduce anxiety. In fact, stroking animals has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
Interestingly, a study by Bussolari in 2002 found that people who experience a lot of family conflict were 22 % more likely to feel hopeful about the situation if they had a pet.
Animals can be so much fun. A bouncy puppy or a naughty kitten can bring endless joy and laughter to your home – essential to any happy family!
Besides, having a pet to care for can help teach kids to be responsible, and to think of the needs of others.
But you should never take on an animal unless you can care for them properly. They’re a big commitment and require time, money and dedication. But if you can provide these, they’ll give your family so much in return.
If you are going to get an animal, please be sure to use a reputable breeder or why not try a rescue centre? One of our dogs is a rescue and has turned out to be such an amazing and loveable little character!
some final thoughts
So, there you have it: 45 strategies to help you build a happy family! I hope you have found this post useful and can start using these tips to address some of the issues you may be facing.
Creating a strong, close and happy family unit takes hard work, commitment and dedication, but it’s so worth it. Good luck and please let me know how you get on. Or if you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments below.
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Thanks for reading,