12 Steps to a Happy Family
Everyone strives to have a happy family. Today’s world throws a lot at families that makes this an ever challenging goal.
You have likely seen the good news posted by some “experts” that divorce rates are down. Unfortunately, those reports are only telling part of the story. While it is true that divorce rates (at least in the US) are dropping, the truth is that the rate of people getting married is dropping faster.
But divorce isn’t the only problem. With so many distractions and time stealers in this digital age, many children and teens are feeling forgotten and unloved.
What can you do to ensure that you have a happy family? Here are 12 steps you can take:
Lesson 13: I’ve Learned that friends may come and go, but family is forever and must be cherished.
1. Talk to Each Other
Communication is most effective when there is a true sharing of feelings and words between family members. Getting all family members to talk is sometimes a challenge. Teens especially may tend to be closed off and silent.
The matter is not hopeless. Take the time to change a few of the things you are already doing and communication will flow more freely.
Talk when you are together.
No doubt there is time that is spent sharing meals or taking trips in the car of by public transportation. How are you using that time? If you are on your phone the entire time, there is no strengthening of the family.
Instead, take that time to talk to your family. Ask questions of each other and listen carefully as they speak. Try not to react too quickly, even if you hear something from your youngster that upsets you. Stifling them will only lead to more silence.
Phones and other electronic devices are wonderful tools for staying connected to the world around us. They can likewise be large impediments to family communication. Checking text messages or social media alerts when a loved one is speaking will not show them that you care about what they are saying.
Set times for your family that are media free. Turn off phones or put them in another room during family dinners or when your teens come home from school. Take that time to listen to your family uninterrupted and you will draw closer.
Family communication often cannot be scheduled. Your teen may want to talk late at night when you are ready to go to sleep. A younger child may want to tell you everything as soon as you pick them up from school.
Do your best to make yourself available to listen even when you are tired or have other things to do. Granted, you cannot stop every action to give your loved one your full attention. But if they see you making a consistent effort, they will feel valued and more likely to talk again later.
You can read another post about choosing your words carefully in this post.
2. Forgive Each Other
The silent treatment is a go-to response for hurt feelings in many families. This treatment may go on for days and even weeks when one family member refuses to forgive another for some offense.
As a result, this wall creates division in the family. Work hard to forgive each other quickly.
Sometimes it’s a matter of just asking yourself a few questions. Will what hurt me matter in 10 years? Is an apology necessary, or can I just overlook the offense? Am I being too sensitive?
Forgiveness means letting go of resentment and the offense that hurt you. It doesn’t mean that you need to pretend the offense never happened or should minimize it.
Holding on to resentment damages not only the family but you often on an emotional and physical level. It can create a rift in the marriage and distance parents and children.
This means if there has been a wrong committed, you should take the time to sit down and talk it out. Both of you should listen as the other explains their point of view. Then, do your best to move forward. Don’t continue to bring up offenses that you have forgiven.
3. Be Loyal to Each Other
Loyalty is at an all time low in this world. Too many people are quick to throw away relationships at the first sign of difficulty. This lack of loyalty is why divorce rates are high and why less people are getting married.
You chose your spouse for a reason. Continue to show each other proper consideration and love and your loyalty and commitment to each other will grow. Decide in your hearts that you will stay together come what may.
Take divorce and separation off the table from the start of the marriage. Divorce rates were lower in times gone past for that very reason. Most people did not consider divorce to be an option.
Family loyalty starts with your mind. How do you think about your spouse? Do you imagine someone else may be a better fit for you? Are there times you regret your marriage?
If any of those answers show weakness in your relationship, take action now to strengthen ties with your mate. Schedule time together and work on open communication. Examine what areas of your marriage are creating stress and then work together at fixing them
Children that are raised in an environment where their parents are loyal and committed to each other grow up to have strong relationships both with their parents and with their future families.
4. Support Each Other
The expression goes, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” Your family is your most important team.
For a couple, this means changing a mindset from “What do I want to do?” to “What would be best for us to do?”
A family should be more than just a bunch of people living together. Make a united front on dealing with money, making family decisions, and child rearing.
Some couples try to keep separate lives in many respects and then wonder later why their marriage failed.
Work toward the success of your team by always working together.
5. Plan With Each Other
Closely associated with teamwork is setting goals. For a plan to be most beneficial, it involves flexibility, planning and plenty of hard work.
Both family and individual goals should be encouraged. Plans may involve necessary things like nutrition and exercise, or a reward to work towards like a special family vacation or weekend trip.
Decide as a family what things you would like to work toward. Pick a realistic deadline and set out the steps that will be needed to reach your goal. Think of any hurdles that may come up and how you’ll be able to overcome them.
In addition to family goals, help your children to set personal goals. Achieving goals can produce more happiness, stronger friendships, and more self-confidence among family members.
6. Value Each Other
Valuing your spouse includes showing them respect. Expressing value is demonstrated in how you interact with your family. Do you frequently criticize each other, or are compliments more common? Are you quick to listen to each other, or do you walk away from or dismiss conversations?
Strengthening your respect for your spouse and family members is a very internal process. Meditate on a list of qualities about your mate, perhaps even writing them down. Then tell your spouse why you appreciate those qualities.
Think too of how you would like to be treated. What actions make you feel valued and appreciate? Think of several areas and have family members do the same. Then take some time to discuss what everyone came up with and how you can do better as a family.
7. Lead Each Other
Parental example is a vital step in achieving a happy family. Leading involves not only stating what you think should be done, but making sure you are doing the same thing yourself.
For example, you may want to teach your children that lying is wrong. Will you later ask your child to tell an unexpected visitor that you are not home simply because you don’t want to speak to that person? Or will your teen hear you call in sick to work when you are not sick?
Think about the guidelines that are important to your family. Do you have rules about what movies or video games can be played? Are there friends you want your kids to avoid? Does your family value words like “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry”? How do you act in these areas?
The way you live your daily life will affect the way your family lives theirs. Show your family how they should live by the example you set.
8. Instruct Each Other
Every family has a core belief system. For many this involves honesty, strong work ethic, and politeness.
To have a truly happy family, these areas must be clearly defined and effectively taught.
A good work ethic can be taught from a very young age.
Give your child chores to complete and make sure they follow through. Chores not only teach responsibility but the importance of doing things for others. Learning to care for what’s important creates stronger and more independent adults.
Standards for politeness should also be taught to the very young. Saying “please” and “thank you” and learning to share are essential lessons. Set the example in these areas and your child will more likely follow suit.
9. Trust Each Other
Trust engenders confidence and consistency. Believe in your family and that they will do the right thing.
Learning to be trustworthy is not an automatic process. Teach your children the relationship between trust and freedom. A teen that respects a curfew will be more likely to receive occasional exceptions.
Teach your children to be honest at all times, even when they might upset you. Show them the consequences when they are not honest. Set the example in being honest yourself.
In addition, patience adds to contentment. Rather than giving your child everything they want when they want it, teach them to work towards something and to wait until the right time. Teaching patience can go along with teaching how to handle money and the importance of savings.
Lessons should likewise be taught about being reliable. Teach your family to follow through. Dependability is sadly lacking today. If you assign a chore, see to it that it is completed. If your teen commits to doing an activity, make sure they do it.
Again, set the example. Show that you are dependable in the way you treat your job and commitments. If you make social plans, make every effort to stick to them. Demonstrate your patience by telling your family something you want and then let them see you patiently work toward it.
10. Strengthen Each Other
Standing up for what you believe in is the key to identity. Core beliefs, moral character, and ethical standards all shape that identity.
Help your family develop their identity by assisting them to discern their weak and strong areas. What traits stand out? Which traits need improvement? Consider aspects like generosity, punctuality, and work ethic. Make sure your young one knows their strengths. If they have trouble coming up with a list about themselves, tell them what strengths you see in them.
Teach conviction. Does your family follow a moral code? What is the basis for that code? Why should it be supported?
Have a family discussion about identity. Remind your children that they have both a personal and family identity and that their actions affect both.
11. Work With Each Other
Many devalue hard work. Some have a “gimme” mentality and expect to be taken care of and served.
Teach your family to be industrious. Show them the value in learning to do new things. Help them to feel pride in a job well done. Whether it is homework, a job, or household chores – look for ways to be more do better and more quickly. As skills develop, so will work enjoyment.
Learning balance is about finding the right middle ground between laziness and overworking. Take time for recreation for your family, but also show them how you complete the necessary things first.
The world is a big place. Even small actions can have a mighty effect. Show your young ones how even small chores benefit others. As they grow, this lesson will carry with them and help make the world a better place.
Demonstrate your work ethic by doing more than expected. Show your children how to take pride in their work and that there is often more to a job than just completing it. Taking out the trash is important. Cleaning up any mess that might be created in the process is the extra step.
12. Guide Each Other
Discipline is on the decline. Crime and violence are increasing. There is no doubt there is a connection.
Your family should know that there is right and wrong and that consequences result from doing the latter.
Discipline and guidance are more than yelling and spankings. When your child does something wrong, sit with them and explain to them why it was wrong. Help them to see how the bad conduct affects others. Affirm your love for them while helping them to understand the importance of reasonable rules.
Guidance comes into play with you spouse as well. Is one of you working too much? Are budgets being properly followed? How much quality time is being spent with the family?
It’s too easy to develop blinders to the things you are doing. You should be willing to talk, and listen carefully with an open mind if you are corrected.
Discipline must be consistent. If something is wrong, it is always wrong, no matter where you are or who you are with. Just like the law is always the law. Speeding is speeding whether you see the police or not. Family rules should be the same.
Love Each Other
Love was not included as a step because a truly happy family knows that love is an essential part of all 12 steps. Discipline in love. Speak in love. Forgive with love.
Love is more than just a warm feeling. It’s that effort to always see the good in your family. Peace and calm are fruits of love. Love first, and all the other steps will come easier.
Even in this dark world, a happy family is possible. If everyone works together and keeps love at the forefront, your family will achieve this goal.