There are times when true “family happiness” seems like a myth. Parents are working full-time; kids are busy with school and sports; the house is a mess and scheduling is chaos. Such is life! But within this wonderfully crazy life, there lies an undercurrent where family strength and contentment can be achieved.
When you understand the eight secrets to family happiness and apply them in your own home, you’ll find that even when things seem out of control, your family’s closeness and confidence in one another perseveres. The following eight secrets are not listed in any particular order. Number eight is just as important as number one:
1. Develop effective communication skills
Communication can be your best friend or your worst enemy — it’s your responsibility to choose how communication affects your life. If you take the time and trouble to develop effective communications skills, you will unlock many doors for your future success at work and at home with the family. An effective communicator can:
- Motivate people to take action. A good communicator has the ability to guide others in the proper direction and motivate them to take action on an issue that is relevant to them.
- Build cooperation and trust. The key to gaining an audience’s trust, whether you’re speaking at a sales meeting or to your children, is to be authentic. Everyone can tell when you’re faking it or just saying what you think you’re supposed to say.
- Maintain focus on the issue. If you don’t stay focused, your audience will drift. When talking to your children about a particular incident, use that incident alone to make your point. Don’t go into the past and bring up other incidents. Stay focused.
- Provide accurate information. Stick to the facts when communicating. It builds credibility and trust.
- Prevent communication breakdowns. Communication that is either all-talk on one side and all-listening on the other is not communication! It must be a give and take. Talk with your kids and family; not at them.
2. Master the art of problem solving and conflict resolution
Entire business conventions are devoted to this single challenge. Here are some tips to incorporating problem solving/conflict resolution methods at home:
- Use effective communication. Miscommunication is a major culprit of problems and conflict.
- Avoid overreacting. No one likes it when Mom or Dad “freaks out”. Overreacting to conflict usually just makes things worse. Try to keep emotions in check.
- Eliminate confusion. Stay focused on one conflict at a time.
- Identify and avoid disruptive behavior. Think before you react and teach your children this important skill. You can’t change someone else’s behavior, but you can control the way you respond to it.
- Use creativity and keep an open mind. Compromise and coming up with creative solutions are two keys to conflict resolution. Get everyone’s input when problem solving.
3. Develop healthy self esteem in your children
Self esteem empowers people to accept and embrace the role of leader. There are four essential elements to building healthy self-esteem in your children:
- Sense of connection with others: Children need to feel connected to their peers, but as you know, cliques can also be devastating to a child’s self-esteem. Make sure your children feel confident and comfortable at home inside the family unit. Self-esteem begins there and strengthens a child’s ability to make friends and think on his or her own in a group.
- Uniqueness: Cherish the ways your children are unique. You may have been an athlete in high school, but your child is more into science. Don’t discourage your children from expressing their interests and dreams. Their uniqueness is what makes them special and they should be proud of it.
- Empowerment: Empowering your children gives them the confidence to trust their own judgment in decision-making situations. If their opinions are constantly dismissed, they will feel they are not worthy of consideration. This is a huge blow to self-esteem and will take a lot of work to rectify.
- Satisfaction of emotional needs: Children “feel” in extremes. They are either ecstatically happy or their world is falling apart. They either feel loved or hated by the “whole world”. Be certain your children know that your love and confidence in them is a constant.
4. Trust your intuition
Empathy is an important tool in being able to relate to and care for others. One key to empathy is learning to trust your intuition. If your intuition is fine-tuned, you can trust the feelings or impressions you get about other people. Sometimes a lot of facts or data are not available to us. In these cases, trusting your intuition will prove to be a valuable resource. Trusting your intuition as a parent and teaching your children the importance of empathy develop strong compassion and concern within the family and outside of it.
5. Build resilience
As a parent, you must be consistent and strong when it comes to family values and discipline. Both parents must form a united front in raising their children, and that can be difficult, especially if you they have different discipline styles. Here are a few guidelines when it comes to discipline:
- Never punish in anger. Allow time to lapse and tempers to cool before deciding on punishment for an infraction.
- Although there are many ways of enforcing discipline, different ways will work with different children. You must find the most effective method for your children.
- Children will use disruptive behavior if they feel it will get them attention. If you feel this is the case with your children, make sure their behavior is not harmful to themselves and then completely ignore them.
- Be resilient! If you say you are going to revoke a privilege, be sure to follow through. It is only through consistency that your actions can be meaningful.
- Never embarrass your child in front of others. Wait until you are alone, and then calmly talk to him about what he did wrong, why it was wrong, and what you expect of him in the future.
- Try to stay calm. When you remain calm and speak in a calm voice, you will lessen your child’s anxiety and help her see her actions in a rational way.
6. Develop skills to become more caring and patient
Parenting is not easy and everyone can recall a time when they were impatient or snapped at their children due to stress or other factors. It doesn’t make you a bad parent! However, there are ways to strengthen your patience. Here are some tips:
- Listen to your kids. Sure it sounds easy, but it can become a reflex to tune out “Mom! Mom! Look over here!” for the 50th time. Acknowledge your children. Respond as quickly as you can and move on.
- Speak clearly to your children. Miscommunication is often to blame for conflict. Be sure to clarify what you’re asking of your children or spouse. Be patient if they ask questions.
- Simply slow down! It may feel like you must stay in fast-forward at all times to keep up with your family, but you don’t. You control the pace of the household. Make time for family dinner, family down time, and time for yourself!
7. Find effective methods of managing stress
Effectively managing stress can be the one secret that allows you to implement the other seven! Stress can wreak havoc on a family in many, many ways. One of the most important keys to family happiness is maintaining a positive attitude and helping encourage positive attitudes among children and your spouse. Negativity breeds negativity. Whether you begin exercising or spend a half-hour each day meditating (which ever way you prefer to “meditate), finding a way to reduce the amount of stress you bring into a household is essential.
8. Be flexible
This is another very important secret. There is no set of rules that can cover every possible situation or instance that may arise. Try not to get caught up in how things “should” be done. Recognize the individual differences in every event or situation. Use what you have learned as guidelines, but be flexible. Rigidity to a set of rules will simply set up for failure both you and your goal of creating family happiness.
Family happiness is not a myth. You probably already use some of these “secrets” at work or in other areas of your life, but just may not have thought of applying them directly to your family. If some of these tips are new to you, try actively applying them professionally or in relationships. You’ll find that not only are they the eight secrets to family happiness; but they are also the eight secrets to happiness as a whole.
SHARON FRIED BUCHALTER, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, family/marriage therapist, relationship expert, and author of Children Are People Too, and New Parents Are People Too. Dr. Buchalter’s tools empower parents to be their own child's life coach and mentor. Visit her website at: www.PeopleTooUnlimited.com.