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We’ve all heard the phrase “Happy wife, happy life,” but maybe it should be changed to “Happy family, happy life!” Of course, everyone wants a happy family, but does everyone know how to achieve that level of family happiness? Not always. Good news, though, it is easier and more attainable than you think! These next 6 steps will help your family become happier in no time.
Eat Meals Together
For years the recommendation was that families should eat dinner together, and that children from families that ate dinner together were less likely to become involved in drugs or smoking and also do better in school. It’s still true that children who spend mealtime with their families fare better, but it doesn’t have to be dinner, and it doesn’t have to be every day. Make a regular effort to have breakfast, lunch or dinner together as a family a few days each week. The more the better, of course, but we understand that families are busier than ever these days. If dinner time is crazy with sports, lessons and dinner meetings for work, schedule time to have breakfast together. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, just time sitting together to catch up, laugh and reconnect with everyone on a regular basis will do wonders for you, your spouse and most importantly your kids. If weekdays are crazy, perhaps you could do a regular Friday night pizza and game night or Sunday afternoon family adventures and dinner. The important part is that it is something the kids and parents all look forward to.
Include the Kids in Family Decisions
Kids love feeling like they have a voice in the family, and that their opinions count and are taken into consideration, so try to include them whenever it is appropriate. Should you include the kids in every decision? Of course not. You may not include them in the discussion you have with your spouse about whether or not to get a dog, but once you decide to get a pet you can include them in the decision of which type of pet to get. Kids can help plan vacation destinations and also what to do once you get there. If you go out to dinner as a family regularly, set up a system so everyone has a chance to choose the restaurant on occasion. All of these things allow kids to voice their opinions, sometimes get their way, and also learn how to deal with not getting their way or accommodating someone else’s requests and preferences- all life skills they need to learn.
Have Weekly Goal Meetings
Goals are important for kids developmentally. Having goals give kids control over the outcome of situations they create for themselves. Certain goals may be to ace a math test, or wake up and be out the door on time more often, or beat their personal best record in their sport. They will soon realize that goals aren’t met by happenstance- they actually have to plan and work towards their goals in order to be successful. Successful kids are happier kids.
Kids should not be overly stressed, they should be kids. If your child is overscheduled and overcommitted he or she may be under more stress than you realize. Signs may be crying for “no reason,” acting out at school, or getting angry with friends and siblings more often. If your kid is overscheduled it’s time to cut back. Consider one sport per season, one lesson, and limiting the number of playdates so your kids can have some downtime, too. By giving them downtime, you give yourself downtime which will reduce your stress as well. Kids want their parents to be less tired and less stressed, and parents want their kids to be less tired and less stressed, so I think we can all agree that reducing stress is a critical component of becoming happier. Find activites that you all enjoy that you can do together. Family movie night, hikes through nearby state parks, bike rides and even getting together with friends and their families are all stress-reducing and fun family activities.
Teach Them Your History
Kids love hearing about their relatives, so tell them about the past of your family. And not just the glamorous stuff, either. It’s important that they know their family isn’t perfect, but it’s their family and no matter what families stick together. Yes, Gramma Mary may have a successful business, but her father had several businesses that failed. Tell them how you’ve gotten through job loss, illness and all of the other “bad stuff” together as a family and they will know that no matter what, you love them and will be there for them.
Make Family Traditions- Big and Small
Family traditions are important so it’s important to pass your traditions down to your kids and also start new traditions that are special to your family. Big traditions may be renting the same cabin year after year and having an amazing “week at the lake” with swimming and fishing and campfire stories, celebrating milestone birthdays with fun weekend trips or celebrating the opening day of baseball by playing hooky from work and school to cheer your team on at their home opener. Small traditions may be first day of school photos, mother/son and daddy/daughter date nights every few months or watching Sunday football together with favorite snacks. Some of my kids’ favorite traditions (that we still do and they are in their 20’s now!) are our annual Christmas tree cutting and lunch, apple picking, going to the pumpkin patch and their true favorite, turtle hunting. Sounds…alarming…but really we have been catching (and releasing) turtles at our cottage for 40+ years now and it is hysterical every time.
Do you have any traditions or happy family tips to share? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!
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