Great Ways to Create a Happy Home
Val Baldwin, CPC
Cultivating habits and activities on a regular basis can boost your family's happiness quotient and it's well worth the effort. Scientific studies show that a happy family has positive effects on health, improving blood pressure and increasing life expectancy. And the activities you share, no matter how simple they may seem, can actually be extremely meaningful in the long run. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 96% of Americans rank family as the most important thing in their lives. Building the bonds that make families strong starts with the simple and fun habits and rituals you create.
In the end, the highest salary and the best car aren't fulfilling. Loving relationships are. They are the foundation of who we are. Happiness isn't what happens to us, it's the love, connections and support structure we have and giving of ourselves unconditionally. After interviewing a wide variety of happy, healthy families, here are 7 secrets to help you make a happy home a top priority.
1. LAUGH IT UP! Find ways to inject humor into your daily life, even if it seems like an effort at first. The average family spends too little time laughing together and too much time complaining. Tell jokes at dinner, leave a book of jokes on the kitchen counter or tuck a funny cartoon in your child's lunch box. Have regular family movie nights and watch hilarious comedies together. Even put some humor into household chores. If your teenage son always forgets to clean up the bathroom sink, write a reminder in shaving cream on the mirror. The times you laugh together will create a “happiness reserve” that can help carry you through the more challenging times.
2. MAKE GIVING A FAMILY AFFAIR. The key is to find something fulfilling that the whole family can do. Doing for others helps kids realize the world is bigger than they are and that people need their help. To get started, make a list of good deeds you could do as a family. You could make dinner for a family with a new baby, invite the new kid in school over to play after school, or take old rugs and blankets to the animal shelter. Set a goal to make a good deed list for everyone to participate in each month. Believe it or not, kids long for connection with others more than another new toy or trip. Kids learn that it does feel as good to give as to get....and giving is the right attitude to have to make this world a better place for all.
3. PLAY HIDE AND TREAT. What do lunch boxes, napkins and sock drawers have in common? They're all places where you can occasionally hide small treats or a note for times when you want to give encouragement for their good deeds, stellar behavior or you just want to tell your kids your love them. Usually we don't notice kids when they're being good, we just kind of expect it. It's important to give positive reinforcement verbally when they are kind, helpful and cooperative. It'll steer them into more positive behavior. And to surprise them with a nice note or a little treat every once in a while to show you are thinking of them is just a nice thing to do. Over time, noticing the good your kids do will reduce conflicts about misbehavior and make for a happier family.
Little notes are a great way to give teens positive reinforcement. Leave a note on the steering wheel of the car that says, ‘Have a great day!’. Or if they have a big test or important game, ‘I believe in you!’. Post affirmations around the house too. We have one on our refrigerator that says “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Along with another one that says “no whining”.
4. FAMILY GAME NIGHT. When you spend time with your kids, bonds are formed and communication is increased. Games are a great way to connect because you’re all together, you’re doing something fun but yet you can talk about serious or silly things. The point is you’re all together having fun. It's relationship building.
Research suggests that if you can develop a common interest, it's a wonderful way to spend time together. My husband and my son found the game of golf to be a terrific way to bond and have easy father/son talking opportunities together. These times were priceless. Any activity like a game night together that offers you open time is a very positive thing.
5. CREATE NEW BEDTIME RITUALS FOR TEENS. As kids get older, it’s important to create new rituals that are age-appropriate so there is a nice end to the day. One mother I interviewed used to read to her son every night when he was little. Now that he is a teen and likes to read the Harry Potter books, she’s reading them herself and talking about them with her son at bedtime.
Another mom started a tradition with her teens where they all gather at 9:30 in the kitchen, reconnect and have a snack together. Once they’re in bed she goes in, gives them a kiss, tells them she loves them and hope they sleep well. Simple yet very bonding.
Many teens love hand and foot rubs. They’ll be all yours for 20 minutes and it gives you a chance to stay connected.
6. GET A TALKING STICK. In Native American tribes, a talking stick was used to keep order in council meetings. Whoever is holding the stick gets to talk and everyone else has to remain quiet. Using one for your family meetings can empower parents who feel their kids don’t listen and for kids who don’t feel heard. The idea is to treat each other with kindness and respect by establishing an environment that supports it. You can use a rock or a hat or whatever you want but whoever has the object has a chance to talk without any worry of being interrupted. It helps kids understand that they need to respect the speaker and wait their turn. As kids get used to the concept, you’ll find you eventually won’t need a talking stick at all.
7. GET OUT THE MEMORABILIA. Studies show that when we share family history we strengthen the bond between family members. Kids long to belong. When they feel part of the tribe, it makes them feel secure and happy. It doesn't have to be complicated to connect. If you don't have time to make scrapbooks, just put the photos in an album and put them out on your coffee tables so family members can regularly go through them and relive happy memories, together.