“All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy’s famous line from Anna Karenina runs deep, though nothing in this world is perfect, and even the happiest-looking family can have its own sources of distress. The real difference between happy and unhappy families is that happy families deal with their problems as a cohesive unit with a positive attitude.
Physiological health is the basis for family well-being; but the emotional states of family members and their relationships with each other are just as important. A family rarely becomes happy overnight. It takes time and consistent effort to forge the emotional attachment that binds families together. There are rules to follow and routines to stick to; but in the end, it’s all worth the effort, as family can be a source of support or a source of stress. Here are 10 open secrets to building a healthy and happy family.
1. Encourage Healthy Eating Habits: It may be difficult to persuade your children to eat their vegetables, but you can condition them to eat healthy if you are a healthy eater yourself. Children follow their parents, so if you prefer beef steak, don’t expect your child to eat broccoli.
2. Joint Exercise: There’s no better way to ensure the health and happiness of your family than to do physical activity together. Go cycling or hiking or swimming with the family; joining a gym or yoga class together; play basketball or cricket in your backyard or go to the ice skating rink—do anything, but do it often.
3. Dinner Together: Eating as a family at regular mealtimes will reduce snacking and unhealthy eating, as well as give you a chance to talk to one another.
4. Avoid Eating in the TV Room: Taking your food while watching TV impairs digestion, and snacking during TV hours adds unnecessary calories to your family’s diet. Declare your TV room a no-eat zone to discourage unhealthy eating behaviors.
5. Cultivate Better Sleep Habits: Children who are sleep deprived can experience cognitive and behavioral problems. Condition your children to go to bed early, so they can sleep well, and you can have some valuable adult time.
6. Lots of Hugs and Kisses: Physical contact may seem excessive to some, but hugs and kisses express the warm feelings you have for one another. Children need lots of cuddles to grow properly, and you and your partner can definitely use those hugs yourself.
7. Respect One Another: Interested in each other sincerely. Ask your kids about their day at school. Encourage sharing your problems and appreciate each other’s accomplishments. Reward your children for good behavior.
8. Minimize Uncertainty: Your kids feel safe when things are predictable. Try to set up a routine that minimizes uncertainty. Set bedtime, mealtime, TV and play time. Never try to bulldoze your schedule on your kids, but be gentle, rational, and firm in your point about routine.
9. Have Fun as a Family: Go on frequent picnics, fishing, or other fun activities that you all enjoy. However, you don’t have to go outside to have fun. Playing indoor games like cards, scrabble or even PlayStation with your kids can be a lot of fun. Having fun together encourages openness and forges trust.
10. Make Your Family Your Top Priority: Too many people work longer and harder thinking they are doing this for their family, when really they are doing it out of their own ambition. Remember, your presence is what your family needs more than anything else.
Take control of your desires—happiness lies mostly in the simple things.
Dr Garry J McClean is a health and safety consultant and writes for Workplace Depot health related websites.