Updated 18 March 2015

Tips for a happier family

Images of happy families are not in short supply. We all have ideas about what they should look like. Does yours fit the portrait of a happy family?


The truth is that happy families have cranky kids, messy houses and money struggles, just like everyone else. Don’t despair; you too can experience some of the domestic bliss that seemed previously reserved just for the Waltons or the Brady bunch.

Love your Spouse

Yes, the cliché is correct: the greatest gift you can give your children is to love each other. Children learn about relationships from their parents. A loving marriage brings security to your kids. So, have regular date nights, show them that doing small things for each other is important.

Rally around the table

According to the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Colombia University, kids from families who dine together are 31% less likely to smoke, drink or do drugs as teenagers. Research shows that mealtimes are more influential than time spent at school, studying, attending religious services or playing sports. Children who enjoy family meals together have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets and higher self-esteem.

If this does not work for you, having joint meals as infrequently as once a week makes a difference.

Put laughter on your to-do list

Find ways to inject humour into your daily life, even if it seems like an effort at first. The average family spends too little time engaged in humour and too much time complaining. Loosen up with your kids about chores. If your teenage son always forgets to clean the bathroom sink, write a reminder with shaving cream on the mirror!

Play hide and treat

What do lunchboxes, napkins and sock drawers have in common? They’re all places where you can hide small treats, a note, or even a little extra pocket money for the times when you catch your kids doing something good. Recognise good things and let them know that you are proud of them for doing so.

Get into the game

Sharing playful experiences will build family memories that will bond you in powerful ways. Especially with little ones, make time for bedtime stories. Go on family vacations and have fun at home. Happy families have inside jokes. Nicknames or jokes symbolise that you are part of a group, that you belong.

Limit after-school activities

Aim for moderation. Today, growing numbers of kids are overscheduled. The mother becomes the chauffeur and the kids are never at home. Create your own after-school activities as a family, e.g. swimming or bike-riding.


Express affirmation, warmth and encouragement

Avoid shame-based parenting, which is performance orientated and approval focused, using words and actions that cause kids to think that they aren’t loved or valued. Aim to make them feel accepted, appreciated, listened to, and loved. Give them confidence by letting them know that you believe in them, value them and enjoy them.

Say “I love you” often

Give them plenty of physical attention like hugs, kisses and back rubs. Rather than just jumping in their to-do lists, share some relaxed conversations with them after they get home from school and before they go to bed. Let go of unrealistic expectations.

Clean up as a clan

Doing chores as a family can be a major bliss booster. Kids may grumble when they’re helping to do the dishes but, you work, you talk and get closer.

Build and honour rituals

Repeating rituals over time bring families together. Have pancake on Sunday mornings or pizza on Fridays.

Nurture a spiritual side

Whether or not you follow an organised religion, happy families tend to spend time reflecting on gratitude and blessings. Offer thanks for something good that happened or ask for blessings for someone who is going through a tough time.

Let your life reflect that the best "things" in life are not physical things. Make time for each other. May your family be a happy one.