If you believe in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina Effect, happy families are all alike (and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way). Perfection, apparently, is considerably simpler and only goes one way.
How do you take your family to this blissful state, though? Whatever obstacles stand in your way, you need to find a way around them. The tips here should help you create a happy family.
1. Separate meals are a terrible idea
Multiple research studies link a number of health, psychological, and developmental benefits to family traditions that have everyone eating dinner together at home.
The largest of these studies was done at the University of Michigan. One of its main findings was this: a simple look at how frequently a child eats his meals at home with his family is all it takes to predict with near-certainty how well he will do in school and in life.
It takes such unity for families to make sure that everyone sits together to eat their meals at home and that mealtime practices by themselves can be used a yardstick to measure the quality of life at home.
If everyone in your home eats their meals whenever or wherever they like, make a change. The kind of dedication to family that it takes to achieve joint mealtimes makes for a healthy atmosphere at home and well-adjusted children.
2. Keeping children in the dark about where they come from
The better a child knows the family story, the more confident he is of his family and the higher his self-esteem is. Telling the children stories about their grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and everyone else gives them a sense of their place in the world.
Research finds that when children know that they are part of something bigger than themselves, it gives them a stronger base from which to navigate the world.
3. Avoid bringing any stress home
More than anything else, a stress-free home is what makes children happy. Research by the Families and Work Institute has found that a stress-free home and parents who are not always tired are the number one dreams of children.
They crave these things even more than money. Stress at home not only makes children unhappy, it makes them less healthy, causing everything from poor immune systems to mental problems.
4. A family with no close friends
While many studies in the past have found that religious families are happier than non-religious families, recent interpretations of these studies have discovered that it is not religion that makes families happier. It is the fact that religion often connects people to their local community and earns them many long-standing friends.
Having caring friends of the family share in the family’s problems makes people happier. If you can invest a little effort in creating a circle of great, long-term family friends, the mental health and happiness of your family will improve.
5. Emphasizing obedience
Raising children by dictatorship, according to researchers at the University of California, is not only terrible for happiness, it does not work. In children who are allowed to plan their own activities, build their own schedules, and set their own goals, the brain’s pre-frontal cortex is actually known to develop more quickly. These children tend to be happier and more confident.
6. Staying away from the grandparents
While many studies do find that children with access to grandparental care feel greater empathy and do better in life, one recent meta-analysis of dozens of studies on the subject has found that when grandparents help take care of grandchildren, the children end up better-adjusted children.
7. Division of labor is not good
In homes where the parents take care of all the responsibilities and the children simply run little errands, happiness levels tend to be not very encouraging. Homes where everyone shares in all the work – cooking, cleaning, laundry or anything else – are happier places.
8. The lack of routine is a bad idea
Chaotic homes are not happy places. Children take strength from having routines through their day – mealtimes, school, and so on. When your children have regular, predictable days, they tend to feel more secure.
9. A lack of communication
Communicating well requires a lot more than a willingness to say a few words to each other each day. You need to learn to be genuinely interested in what others have to say, think about it, and then use what you learn to advance the conversation. It is this type of involvement that children respond to these days.
10. A life without consequences ruins children
When a child hurts another child’s feelings or does something else that is wrong, the average family addresses the problem either by punishing the child or by making him apologize. Research finds that neither method works well.
Instead, children should be made to do something nice in return for whatever hurt they cause. Children who learn that only good actions can counter bad actions, grow up better-adjusted.