If your family is like many families that I know, every day has a long list of things to do and places to be.
Is it hard for your family get to everything – without added stress? Does it seem like you’re missing what some “happy” family seems to have? Do you wonder if it’s possible to be on track with a reasonable schedule – AND be happy?
The Secret of a “Happy” Family
Families are happier when there is less stress. Makes sense so far, right?
There is less stress when families communicate effectively. Effective communication for a happy family requires clear expectations and purposeful action. It also often requires taking a step back and to allow the good things happen.
The following ways of approaching the daily challenges of family life will keep both you and your children happier, healthier, and on track.
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1. Making requests and providing examples
When you express your expectations about scheduling, homework, respectful behavior (etc.) to your child or family member, are you giving clear examples of what you want to see?
Parents often express frustration and feeling surrounding what they want to see differently, and any specific example often describes what they DON’T want to see.
Give yourself a better chance at a happy family by offering clear examples, such as pointing out the times when homework IS done on time or started on time or practicing speaking to your child the way that you want to be spoken to.
Are you willing to ask for help and cooperation from your child in a positive way? Don’t make yourself a martyr to your children, as it builds stress and resentment. Practice assigning chores and delegating daily tasks (with positive, grateful attitude).
2. Giving reminders
Many parents feel like their reminders about chores, homework (and almost everything else) tend to be ignored. Let’s check on whether or not your reminders are constructed effectively before we give up on them.
Are your reminders excessive or inconsistent? Do your reminders sound more like criticism? A reminder can be used to tell your child or family member what he or she is NOT doing (or doing wrong). In a happy family, a reminder can be a stepping stone toward a desired behavior.
As a parent in a happy family, you’ll communicate clearly how often and in what way you are willing to remind your child or family member about something that needs to be done, and then stick with that plan.
Use this as a time to collaborate respectfully with your child or family member, asking him or her how often and in what way she would like to be reminded (without sarcasm, please). Be sure to take these suggestions into account, at least for a trial run of a week or two. Try to go into a new experiment of how to use reminders with an open mind, letting go of resentment and frustration you may feel about past struggles.
Also, be sure that you have a clear agreement on the plan before you expect it to be set in motion! If your child agrees to take out the trash on a certain day or by a certain time, you’ll have that verbal acknowledgement to reference. If you don’t agree upon a behavior ahead of time, no reminder will be able make the action happen.
3. Giving direct encouragement
A happy family gives frequent and specific encouragement and appreciation. Click To Tweet
Rather than simply saying “Thank you” or “good job,” be specific. Let your child or family member know exactly what you appreciate and what you notice about his or her positive action. For example, you might say “Thank you so much for taking care of your own lunch this morning,” or “You made your lunch without any reminder from me!”
Encouragement or appreciation that is too vague may make it difficult for your child to continue learning or improving his or her behavior. Being specific will allow him or her to make note of what to continue to do.
Also, as your child grows up, it’s best for him or her not to depend on external encouragement. So, identifying specifically what was done well will help your child develop an internal compass for constructive behavior that feels right to him or her.
4. Letting your child do his or her own work
A happy family has happy parents who don’t try to do everyone’s work for them. It’s not your job to save your chid from stress. If you complete your child’s homework for her, for example, you aren’t allowing her the experience of learning to manage her time, communicate with teachers, and most importantly completing a goal she set out to accomplish.
If you have voiced clear expectations, they will only be respected if you stick to what you say. Do you cave in and do your child’s chore for him out of frustration? It may seem to take extra time and patience to be consistent with your expectations, but it will save you a lot of time and stress in the long run if you allow natural consequences to mold your child’s behavior over time.
You may have to take a step back and tolerate a few mistakes in order for a new balance to be struck at home. Click To Tweet
5. Giving yourself permission to have a happy family
Don’t expect perfection, especially from yourself! Allow a little laughter and fun in the process of coordinating schedules, assigning chores, and figuring out how to share space with these humans that you love. You can set the tone for a positive home environment.
If you or a family member are struggling to find the joy in daily life, reach out to a therapist for guidance on family communication and managing emotions in healthy ways. Don’t wait for a problem to get worse before finding support and resources that can provide joy and relief for your family.
Contact me with any questions about how to to help your unique family be a happy family.
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