If you asked 100 families if they would like to be a happy family, I would be surprised if you didn’t get a 100% affirmative. What if there was a secret that all happy families knew? Would you like to know it? Here’s some simple things you can apply to your family immediately.
I have this family that I love very much and we have gone through a lot together. Some of the things we have gone through have been hard, really hard. But my family is still young and so there are going to be several more experiences and some of those might be even harder still. Don’t get me wrong; there have been a lot of great, spectacular, experiences as well. For me it is easy to have a happy family during those times. It is when things get hard that happiness seems fleeting, wouldn’t you agree? Regardless of the ups and downs I strongly feel that having a strong foundation will ensure happiness no matter what is going on.
Bruce Feiler decided to take a journey that lasted three years to get insights to make his own family happier. He didn’t search out the usual candidates, like psychologists or the so called “experts”. Instead he met with business leaders and innovators. He talked with game designers and app creators. He even considered the Green Berets to figure out what would make a more tight-knit cohesive unit. While his journey produced all kinds of unique exercises and techniques there is only one main key to all happy families. But that one key is accomplished through several of the exercises and techniques Bruce Feiler discusses.
One of the ideas he shares is a business concept called Agile. Creating lists for morning routine is a way to improve happy family life. If you hate lists let me share a little insight into why this is effective. When there is a routine that the little ones (or even the big ones) can be directed to then they will not need to rely on you for simple tasks. As the parent you can focus on more important matters, like the emotional well-being of your kids, not the mundane tasks of making the bed or cleaning the dishes. Reminding them to check the list is all it takes and then you can be freed up for deeper more meaningful conversation.
Regularly meeting together as a family where everyone has an equal voice is invaluable. This should be a short discussion that the family focuses on the family. “What went well in our family this week?”, “what didn’t?”, and “what will we commit to improve the family this next week?” You can add your own adaptation, like what events need to be on the calendar.
Bruce Feiler says to rethink family dinner; in essence he shares how it isn’t about sitting down to a specific meal together, but having regular conversations. I’m sure you can come up with a method that will work best for your family, but we have created a topic schedule. Mondays are just a word of the day, Tuesday is true story from one of us and it rotates through the family, Wednesday is focused on something hard that happened to one of us rotating the other direction, etc. That Wednesday conversation helps the kids learn how to be resilient and recognize that they can do hard things. It also helps with problem solving. Talk at the table.
This chapter is a bit more abrasive when it comes to talking to your kids about sex. If you aren’t talking to your kids about sex though, they are learning about it from some other source. You want to be the source; so don’t think of it as a single talk, but an ongoing conversation – that is open.
I enjoy knowing what causes a person to act a certain way. Bruce mentions the “5 Love Languages”, but there are countless others. When you are able to converse with knowing there unique personality it will make the conversation that much more meaningful.
As you noticed, every suggestion on this very condensed list involves the same main point and that is to communicate. It is crucial and it isn’t at all surprising. There truly are great tools that can be found in “The Secrets of Happy Families” and you can adapt then to your family and see the effectiveness they will bring, however, none of them can replace you just talking with each other.
I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition. ~ Martha Washington
This next week see how often you are communicating with the members of your family. Make an effort to spend at least 10 additional minutes of meaningful conversation with your kids. Don’t concern yourself with the topic, in fact, see if there is something that they would like to talk about – get creative in how to find out what that might be.
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