How To Have A Happy Family
Having a happy family is easy. Simply tell your kids that unless they cooperate you’ll write them out of your Will.
No, that’s a bit harsh. Much simpler to remind them that Uncle Rupert will be coming over if they don’t settle down. Works a treat (and we don’t even have an Uncle Rupert). But of course there’s a lot more to a happy family than coercion.
You need to spend time together. Seriously. Then make sure to relax. Personally, I’m all for recommending that parents put their foot deftly through the TV screen and ensure that all laptops lack Wi-Fi. That means everyone is forced to be together, sitting hunched on the sofa, looking blankly at the wall and feeling family time is a slow dripping water torture test.
Okay, you know I’m joking. While I’m a strong advocate for family time together, the type of happy family advice covered in sickly schmaltzy syrup is simply too much for me.
Which is why the experts don’t know everything about what you and your family require. You need to find your own levels together where you feel both real and supportive of each other.
Every time I hear people referring to having a happy family by quarantining “quality time” with their kids, I visibly wince. Close relationships have an ebb and flow of togetherness and children are no different. Sometimes you’re in the same room together, yet separate. At others, you maybe talking, playing, or working together at various intensities. These are all part of your total relationship and all necessary.
Quality time implies parents can skedaddle off to the country club, pub, work, sport, or whatever, and define timeslots where everything is intensely focused on the child. But that totally misses the process of parenting. Kids see us as we are all the time. If we create a fake climate of “Dad’s here (for the first time this week) so now you’re going to have fun (because he is going to bribe you with treats)”, our kids won’t know their father but a showman. That’s hardly a strong model of fatherhood and it’s not a good pattern to follow (unless of course you want your father to be Willy Wonka).
You can comfort, cajole, entertain, and care. But you cannot force everybody to gleefully play their part for “the happy family” script. Yet, these days, people frequently feel obliged (parents especially) to do everything possible to make their family happy at all costs.
When kids are little this isn’t as difficult. But wait! What am I saying? Kids cry too about all sorts of things, and some stuff you certainly cannot regulate, no matter what tactics you take. A happy family home in the continually all-smiling, laughing out loud sense isn’t realistic.
But, it is possible to have a happy family and also share frequent moments of joy together. If happiness is understood as a sense of trust, love, stability, patience, and kindness then, yes, you can have a happy family.
That kind of definition allows for tears, tantrums, and door slams (and the kids can do them too). Life is constantly variable, so problems can swamp any family in an instant. But a happy family, in the truer sense, survives and, ultimately, thrives on being together. That’s what a happy family has. It’s still riven with problems, but it holds fast with the most powerful of glues: belonging.