What makes for a happy family? What are the things that happy families do that support the family “team” in being healthy, happy, and successful? Happiness is now being formally studied as the study of “well-being” by positive psychology and from these studies, we are finding that there are things that happier families do to stay in touch and support one another. Here are seven tips to help your family be happier.
Studies show that families who have dinner together even once a week and as much as four times a week or more are happier because they are not only sharing time together, but they are showing interest in one another. Children who attend family dinners are less likely to engage in addictive behaviors like drinking, smoking, and drug use. They are also less likely to develop eating disorders, get pregnant, or commit suicide.
Further studies show that children who share family dinners have better vocabularies, manners, self-esteem, and diets. Finally, a University of Michigan study showed that family dinners are the single best predictor of academic achievement and successful life behaviors.
Children who know where they come from have greater resilience and self-esteem. Surprise, surprise, family dinner is a great place to share that history. Knowing where a family comes from and the challenges they have overcome builds an emotional foundation for kids to stand on as they face life challenges. Knowing family pitfalls helps them to avoid those pitfalls for themselves. The more your children know about your family history, the negatives, and the positives, the more their sense of history and support as they take on new challenges in their lives.
Positive Psychology defines happiness, or “wellbeing” as minimizing stress. Start with yourself. When children sense that their parents are stressed, they feel stressed. When children were asked what is the one thing they want for their parents they overwhelmingly answered they want their parents to be less stressed and tired. You are the rock for your children. Ensure that they feel secure by making sure that you manage your own stress levels.
Now that your working on your OWN well-being, look for ways to reduce unnecessary stress to your children by giving them time between events, and allowing them to focus on activities that they not only love but are healthy for them. Remember, studies show that high levels of stress contribute to childhood obesity, mental illness, diabetes, allergies, even tooth decay.
Being a part of a larger community, particularly a spiritual community bolsters family well-being. Studies show that the kind of community or religion does not make a difference. What makes the difference is the number of friends you have in your community. The magic number is ten. Having ten or more friends gives families a broad enough base so that they have different people they can turn to under different circumstances for support. This reduces stress to parents and therefore children.
A well-known tool to help your family be happier is the checklist. Keep checklists for chores, when you travel, for getting ready for school. Breaking down any task into pieces and tracking that each smaller piece is complete is a classic way to reduce stress for everyone and ensure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. If you are going on a vacation, you may want multiple checklists, one for packing, one for going to the location, another for activities once you get there, and so on.
Target checklist specifically in areas where things have gone wrong in the past so that you don’t repeat them. Keep it simple, limit checklist items to no more than seven items. If there are more than seven items you may want to break your list down to a couple of smaller pieces of the process. Finally, engage all the stakeholders (including the children) in any checklist creation process. You will have greater buy-in when everyone plays together. You will also teach your children to use checklists which is a self-empowering process.
We are all in the business of empowering our children, after all, they will inevitably grow up and take the lead in their own lives. Give your children responsibility and empower them. Of course, consider age-appropriate responsibilities. Encourage them to make their own plans (and lists) first with your support and guidance, and then on their own. You can even allow them to choose consequences for rule-breaking!
Encouraging and supporting your children to plan their time, make lists, and consider the risks of new endeavors will not only teach them to take small risks rather than big ones that are not thought out. It will also develop their cerebral cortex and encourage the development of their nervous system.
A way to help your family be happier is to lean on grandma. Parents who allow their parents to help them out with the children are far less stressed and therefore the children are less stressed and well adjusted. Kids who have their grandmothers in their lives are better communicators and more social. They are also more involved in school and more likely to show concern for others. Grandmothers teach children how to be more connected socially, how to be compassionate and cooperative, and considerate of others.
To learn more about Empowering your family for greater success and happiness, join us online from February 28th through March 27th in the Family Success Spring Symposium!