Raising a Happy Family
What does it take to create a happy family, when modern life threatens to overwhelm us? Here are six secrets of Happy Families that you can easily put to use in your own home to create a joyful and connected family, where everyone flourishes and even the teenager treasures family time.
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You’ve probably heard that having dinner together as a family is a good thing for your kids, but you may not realize that it could change your child’s life. Dinner is the best predictor we have of how kids will do in adolescence. The more frequently kids eat dinner with their families, the better they do in school, and the less likely they are to become sexually active, suffer depression, get involved with drugs or alcohol, or consider suicide.
Kids thrive on routines and structure. A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, develop self-discipline. and gain a sense of mastery in handling their lives. Here's how.
One of the reasons kids have meltdowns at the end of the day is that they're hungry and tired. The other is that it's hard work for little people to keep it together all day in the face of all those developmental challenges. The minute they see you, their "executive self" relaxes, and their "baby self" comes out to seek comfort from Mom and Dad. Be ready to be emotionally present for your kids, and you'll stave off some meltdowns and set a pleasant tone for the evening.
What does a four year old need in the morning? Well, everyone is different, but most of us need some time to make the transition from sleep into busy activity; most kids balk at feeling pushed. Most four year olds need to "do it myself." Most four year olds want to make their own decision about when their body needs to pee. And I've never met a four year old who understands why that meeting Mom has to get to is more important than whether he can find his toy car.
From the infectious fun of side-splitting laughter to the exuberance of an impromptu pillow fight, infusing a spirit of joy and playfulness into your home nurtures your family like little else.
Does the idea of Family Meetings seem stilted and artificial to you? It certainly did to me, when I first heard about it. But once we tried them, we loved them. They create connection. They give you a way to work things out when everyone's calm. They help your kids learn to solve problems. They help kids feel like integral members of the family. They even help siblings work things out and appreciate each other.
Parents have always grappled with harsh realities to protect their children. But our culture poses risks that are difficult to navigate, because they aren't obviously dangerous. In fact, we take them for granted as we go about our busy lives.
To flourish, we all need a safe place -- both physically and emotionally -- to come home to. If children are to turn their full attention to the many demands of growing up, they need a secure, solid home where they feel protected. Giving your children a sanctuary is an enormous gift. It allows them to go out and do battle in the world, and return home to recharge. It also gives your family culture the cozy nest it needs to thrive. Finally, research shows that adults who consciously create homes where they find nurturance and beauty report better moods and less stressful lives.
How do you hold a family together? How do you make kids WANT to spend time with the family? How do you give your children the motivation to work things through with their siblings and with you? Much of the answer has to do with the family culture you create. Every family has one. What's yours?
The average fifth grader, given a choice, prefers to stay inside, close to electrical sockets and all the entertainment sources they power. But your grandmother was right: Kids need fresh air and exercise. We all do. Kids who spend time outside in nature, research shows, are calmer, happier, less likely to be overweight, and do better in school. And families who find ways to be outdoors together nurture not only their bodies, but their connection to all of life -- and to each other.
If you're getting divorced, you'll be heartened to know that the research shows kids can cope with a divorce and come out ok. But often they don't. In fact, many children whose parents make the decision to divorce are emotionally wounded in a way that lingers throughout their lives. The good news is that we know what the risk factors are that leave kids scarred. Here's how to protect your child.