Families are supposed to be happy, right? Yet, reality bites, and family life can be extraordinarily difficult. Some days are better than others. To help out on those tough days, here are 5 evidence-based ideas for making your family happier – starting right now.
1. Focus on the moment
The buzz-word for this is ‘mindfulness’. What it really means is that you’re emotionally and mentally present, and not just physically present. While your child is talking to you, let go of the ‘to-do’ list, forget about what you’re going to cook for dinner, ditch Candy Crush or your Facebook status update, and focus on them.
2. Don’t reprimand. Understand
When our children are being challenging our default response is to get frustrated, angry, and to blow up. This does NOT make families happier! Usually children are being challenging because of an unmet need. Often they’re hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or stressed. They don’t need us to reprimand them. They do need us to understand them. More often than not, a short period of ‘time-in’ with us solves their problems, helps them feel better, and lifts the mood of the family instantly.
3. Focus on ‘we-time’
While we all need a little bit of ‘me-time’, studies show that getting more ‘we-time’ is what makes our families happiest. Schedule a space each day for time together. Perhaps it might be meal preparation, sports, or quiet reading before bed. When we spend time together our relationships are strengthened, and our families are happier.
4. Speak softly
No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “Today’s the day I’m going to yell my head off.” Yet, by day’s end, we’re drained from the stress and frustration of shouting at children who don’t seem capable of listening to some simple instructions. But the kids aren’t deaf! They can hear. When you don’t get a response, go with the opposite of what you want to do. Walk over to them, crouch down, hold their hand, smile, and speak quietly. Let them know you care about them. And restate your request. You’ll get more understanding, greater compliance, and a happier family.
5. Less correction and direction
So much of our interaction with our children is correction and direction. We’re forever telling them what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and what to do next after they’ve done this or that. Or we’re telling them what they’ve done wrong, how to fix it, and to make sure they never do it again. Mornings are a case in point. We tell them to get out of bed, find their lost shoe, get their uniform on.
Then we get cranky because they’ve lost their lunchbox or need their uniform taken off and ironed. We bark direction and correction all morning, telling them to hurry up or they’ll be late. Things are calmer when we ask “What do you need to do next?” and then smile and wait. By encouraging and supporting autonomy, they do better, and the family feels happier.
Family life is tough going. These tips can make it a little smoother.