When a new year begins, people almost always think of how they can make their lives better. Parents, for example, often think of how they can improve their family life because it's true: some families are happier than others. One tip I have found helpful is to have parents observe families they admire, and then to incorporate some of what they are doing in their own family.
In an earlier article, I presented four behaviours happy families engage in more frequently than other families. And here, you'll find five tips from family researchers who've done exactly what I just suggested you do: they observed happy families and then recorded how these families behave.
Parents Continue to be a Couple
In happy families, husbands and wives do not stop being a couple once they become a mother and a father. Parents, in other words, nurture their marriage. They seem to know instinctively that as the marriage goes, so goes the family. Time alone is planned, and time to get away as a couple is scheduled. Anniversaries are celebrated and each other's birthdays are honored. I have observed that in unhappy families, parents have a hard time balancing their roles as husband and wife with their roles as mother and father until soon, the parents are living parallel lives.
Parents Avoid Holding Grudges
Successful families recognize and accept that getting angry with each other is normal. They know that a bunch of people of different ages living under one roof are bound to get on each other's nerves now and then, so they are quick to forgive and forget and to make up and apologize. They don't hold onto grudges and their anger for hours and days. In unhappy families, though, letting go of anger is difficult. Family members pout and give other family members the silent treatment or the cold shoulder for days.
Parents Follow Family Traditions
It's fun doing things together. It's also fun planning fun things to do. And once you have planned your special event, you have the pleasure of looking forward to the day when the fun will take place. This is what family traditions are all about: they are special ways of doing fun things at particular times of the year. When a family honors its traditions, they are, in a sense, saying to everyone in the family, 'This is how our family is unique. This is how we celebrate the holidays. This is how we spend our summer.' Unfortunately, unhappy families often lack traditions.
Parents Value Communication
Happy families talk to each other … they just do. They find time to have discussions and time to have family meetings. They listen to each other and they express their feelings to each other. Unhappy families are more like emotional loners, and their family members keep to themselves and rarely express their feelings. They seem unconcerned if one family member is sad or upset. I always tell families they must not ignore a member of the family who is unhappy—something negative is going on and it is likely to affect the whole family in a bad way.
Parents Establish Rules and Consequences
In successful families, the children know what is expected of them—rules and consequences are clearly stated. In unhappy families, the children never seem to have a clear picture of what is expected of them and what the punishment will be if they repeatedly break a rule. In these families, getting praised for just being good rarely happens, and rules remain vague and often are not consistently applied.
Since September 11th, Americans have focused on their country and their families with re-newed enthusiasm. It is easy to see these days how patriotic everyone is feeling And there are so many stories these days of how people are finding strength and security by staying close to their families. Sometimes terrible events wake us up to what is truly important in life. We need to not take our family life for granted and instead focus on how we can inspire more love, more togetherness, more pride and more fun within our families.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.